Andrei Markov scored with less than a minute left in overtime to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4 – 3 Sunday night at the Bell Centre, handing the Devils their first loss of the season. The Habs last victory against the Devils at the Bell Centre was way back on March 11, 2008. The goal was Markov’s third straight game-winning goal this season as he picked up a Rene Bourque shot off the endboards and fired it past Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur.
First for Gallagher and Prust
Brendan Gallagher got his first NHL goal, Brandon Prust got his first goal as a Hab, and their centre, Alex Galchenyuk, had two big assists on the goals. On Gallagher’s goal, Galchenyuk was on the right side bearing down on Brodeur and, freezing Brodeur with the threat of his quick shot, fed a perfect pass over to Gallagher who had the whole left side of the net to shoot at. Gallagher said after the game, “It’s pretty exiting right now. I’ve got to thank Chucky for the pass. He pretty much looked off Brodeur, all I had to do was hit the net.” On Prust’s goal, Galchenyuk made a nice play at the blue line, batting down the puck to his stick and firing it towards Prust and Brodeur. Prust, screening Brodeur, popped the puck out of mid-air into the net.
The Habs came out flying in the first period, outshooting the Devils 16 -7. Ryan White opened the scoring two-minutes in, after Brodeur kicked out a shot by Alexei Emelin, White, going hard to the net, backhanded in the rebound. Gallagher got his in the first and the Canadiens led 2 – 0 after one. The Habs went to sleep in the second period and New Jersey’s Patrik Elias cut the lead to one after batting down a Mark Fayne shot which bounced off the ice before trickling through Carey Price’s pads. The refs went to the replay and determined Elias’ stick was not above his shoulders. The third period started off well with Prust getting his goal early putting the Habs back up by two. Then a strange call, or calls, by the refs at the four minute mark put the Devils on a two man power play. Both Alex Galchenyuk and Brandon Prust were called for high sticking penalties on the same play and Jersey’s David Clarkson capitalized on the two-man advantage. Dainius Zubrus scored eight minutes later and the game was all tied up. Although the Habs blew their two goal lead, it was not a deja-vu Jacques Martin kitty-bar-the-door meltdown. The Canadiens were still skating and competing, but New Jersey is a good team and were battling as well. Just one of those games. As Michel Therrien explained after the game, “This game was a good measuring stick for us, to see where we’re at right now at this time of the year. I see a lot of resilience in our guys, even after they (New Jersey) tied the game. I saw a group that never quit and were playing to win. It was a good team effort.”
The Two Gals
With Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher both playing as well they have, it will be interesting to see how Michel Therrien handles the decision on whether to keep them up or not. He wanted to give them a five-game tryout, see how they did and then re-evaluate the situation. The decision might be made a little easier with the loss of Max Pacioretty (see below), but both players have been playing well and are better than anyone else the Habs can bring up. Michael Blunden? Louis Leblanc?
Max Pacioretty will be out three to four weeks (possibly 14 games) after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Saturday night. Pacioretty had missed the Canadiens Saturday morning practice with a fever and flu-like symptoms. Lars Eller was back in the lineup replacing Pacioretty on the wing, and as far as I could see, didn’t impress coach Therrien with his intensity.
Tomas Kaberle had got hit in the face with a puck at that same practice and that was all the excuse Michel Therrien needed to get defenseman Yannick Weber in the lineup. Although Kaberle was cleared to play, Therien said, “We were looking for an opportunity to get Weber in the lineup and he deserved to be in there due to his work ethic in practices.” Weber did not play poorly but certainly looked rusty.
The Habs play the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night at the Bell Centre, then it’s off to Ottawa for a game against the Sens Wednesday night.