Alex Galchenyuk Scores Overtime Winner As Montreal Canadiens Defeat New Jersey Devils
Some might say that Claude Julien has only seen wins from his Montreal Canadiens in either overtime or shootout fashion. In a broader sense, that would be correct, and it is exactly what happened against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Monday night.
As scoring continues to be something in which the Habs have been struggling with the most as of late, Julien once again made the decision to mixup his lines to see what works, this time, placing Alex Galchenyuk on the left wing while inserting Tomas Plekanec at centre and Brendan Gallagher on the right side. In the third period, Andrew Shaw took over for Gallagher.
With just a matter of hours prior to puck drop, the team announced a trade which would bring aboard Jordie Benn from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Greg Pateryn and a fourth round pick in an effort to help out on the blue line, with assistance very much needed at this particular time if the playoffs remain a hope for the month of April.
Looking ahead to the game’s first period, things were rather silent in both perspective team’s ends, though, Montreal was lighting things up early on the aggression side of things, as Brendan Gallagher amongst the club got involved with John Merrill who lost his helmet while up against the Devils bench, as a form of puck protection, perhaps a lesson taught for execution purposes by their new 56-year-old bench boss.
Amongst those seeing physical action against Montreal was centerman Jacob Josefson. The 25-year-old left the ice with just 4:57 remaining in the first period of play which was just coming to an end. He would not return after suffering an upper-body injury.
Al Montoya started for the Canadiens between the pipes on Monday in replacement of Carey Price who was having the night off as a healthy scrtath and looked solid through 19 minutes. That was until Kyle Palmieri tapped one past the 32-year-old netminder with only 29 seconds left on the clock, his team-leading 19th of the season, giving New Jersey the 1–0 advantage after the first twenty minutes of action. Travis Zajac recorded an assist on the play.
As some of you may have recognized, the Devils have dropped their last four matches, due to none other than a lack of offensive strength much like the Habs were, however, a single morning practice session seems to have fixed that for a certain organization, that being the visitors, looking to keep atop the Atlantic Division standings.
The second period displayed not a single showing of any effort at all, with both sides offensively still figuring things out, making for much silence from not only both teams but their fans as well, which has been they way things have been lately not only in Newark but at the Bell Centre in Montreal as well as attendance levels have most certainly seen a significant decrease in recent weeks. To some extent, you might say it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop from the rafters above, more than 400 feet over home ice.
Heading into the third period, pace had increasingly picked up from the game’s beginning, which brought a more positive vibe, not to mention energy to everyone in the building, leading up to what nothing but but pure entertainment and tention.
Rushes were being lead into John Moore doubled the Devils lead with a slapshot from the point, his sixth of the season on a slpshot past Montoya, just two minutes and thirty-eight seconds into the final twenty minutes. Joseph Blandisi and Damon Severson recorded assists on the play.
It was just eleven seconds later that the the Canadiens finally put themselves on the scoreboard as Russian sensation Alexander Radulov did what he does best, dangling the puck in-front of the crease, waiting to sneak his fifteenth goal of the season by Cory Schneider, the result of a perfectly timed pass from Jeff Petry who received the puck on his right side from Alexei Emelin, both recording assists on the play.
Moving along to the 7:54 mark, New Jersey now on the power-play when Travis Zajac provides the Devils with extra comfort, extending the lead to 3–1 on a slick backhand, which goes just wide of Montoya’s right side while he tries to clear Wood out of the way on an attempt to screen the puck’s view quickly approaching into Montreal’s zone.
Just over a minute later with the Canadiens very much in need of a point addition, it’s team captain Max Pacioretty coming through in the clutch once again, scoring his thirtieth goal of the season for a fourth straight year, cutting the deficit to one after almost a full sixty minutes of what surely seemed like a shutout in favor of New Jersey.
Pacioretty tied it 3–3 with 51 seconds remaining in the third period and Montoya pulled for the extra attacker on a slap shot from the outer edge of the right circle.
Zajac scored six seconds into a power play off his backhand to give the Devils a 3–1 lead 7:54 into the third period. Pacioretty scored his 30th of the season on a shot from the bottom of the right circle 43 seconds later to make it 3–2.
With the Ottawa Senators in action against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena, the Canadiens, now entering the game’s final minute of play, have everything on the line with Julien gathering them up for a quick chat to re-align his men, while adding an extra attacker to their end, meaning Montoya’s night would come to an end. As if it wasn’t expected at all, Pacioretty would tie things up at three with this thirty-first goal of his 2016–17 campaign, planting one in the Devils net on a slapshot from the outer edge of the right circle, beating Schneider, tightening the contest.
This would set things up for an extra period of overtime, which seems to be the only way they win these days if not for shootout which they continue to practice on a regular basis at the Bell Sports complex in Brossard, QC. Anyways, with a power play in effect and 2:06 left on the clock and Alex Galchenyuk approaching the opposing net, Radulov finds veteran Shea Weber just slightly behind him who then passes to the 23-year-old centerman on his right side who locks, loads and puts in away, giving the team back-to-back wins for the first time dating back to January 7.
After the game, Claude Julien met with the media where he said, “We need to play better and there’s no doubt about that. But what you take from this game is two points that are important in the standings and the character we showed in the third.”
“We have to realize you can’t just show up and start playing hockey in the final 20 minutes because you’re not going to beat many teams.”
For two periods there we were flat. We had nothing going. We didn’t create many scoring chances and it just looked like one of those flat games. But what I learned is that they showed character in the third period, especially when (the Devils) scored the second goal. The way things were going, it would have been easy to kind of throw our arms down and just pack it in, but we didn’t.
“It wasn’t really about Xs and Os in those first two periods. It was about how hard we wanted to get engaged and how hard we wanted to work and how desperate or determined we wanted to go in front of the net. We were taking shots from the point, there was nobody in front of the net. We weren’t winning as many battles as I would have liked, so we got better in the third.”
After having been pulled out of net early, Montoya, who made a total of 34 saves, spoke with the media where he said, “We knew we were still in the game. We hadn’t played our best hockey at all and as a group we knew we could be better and our leadership stepped up and at the end of the day that’s the story.”
When asked about his game-winning goal and how this helps his struggling team, he said, “It was a big team win. Lot of guys chipped in on a lot of the key goals, Rads, Patch. We never stopped believing in this locker room. It wasn’t going our way, but we stuck together and knew to keep going and find a way to win and we did.”
While addressing his back-to-back goal performance, Galchenyuk said, “It’s OK. It’s part of the game. You just got to stay focused and keep playing your game.”
In a statement from Devils head coach John Hynes, he said, “It’s certainly a disappointing loss. We had lots of good performances and we played a good game and there were just some situations that would up going in the back of the net and we ended up not winning the game.”
As for a brief comment from New Jersey netminder Cory Schneider regarding Pacioretty’s goal which allegedly bounced off of Ben Lovejoy and deflected into the net, he said, “Sometimes those are the breaks go against you.”
The Canadiens will not have their regularly scheduled 11am ET practice session on Tuesday as it has been cancelled to give the players a break, however, the team is right back at it on Tuesday night at 7:30pm ET when they proudly play host to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The game can be seen on Sportsnet East and RDS, meanwhile, it can be heard on TSN Radio 690.