NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Trailing by three goals and with their playoffs hopes fading, the Montreal Canadiens reached down and found something that might spark their season.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored the only shootout goal and the Canadiens rallied from a 3-0 second-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 5-4 on Tuesday night.
“The most important thing is we won,” Kovalchuk said after Montreal won for the seventh time in 10 games. “You know we battle back from 3-0 and it’s a really good sign. You know we showed a lot of character, we needed that game, and we showed up in the second and third periods for big goals.”
Montreal’s Charlie Lindgren had 20 saves filling for an ill Carey Price, and easily handled muffed chances by Nikita Gusev, Kyle Palmieri and Jack Hughes in the shootout.
Joel Armia, Nate Thompson, Nick Cousins and Christian Folin scored in regulation for the Canadiens.
“I know I’m a fighter and never going to give up and to be able to get the two points tonight (is big),” Lindgren said. “A lot of credit has to go to the guys. They played hard and never gave up.”
Palmieri scored two-power-play goals for New Jersey, including the game-tying tally with 20 seconds left in regulation. The late power play was the result of Montreal having too many men on the ice.
Miles Wood and Jesper Bratt also scored for the Devils. Louis Domingue had 32 saves for New Jersey, which has played in four straight overtime games since the All Star break. He had no chance on the wrist shot by Kovalchuk, a former Devil.
“He’s been a great influence in all aspects, from being a good example, his work ethic, his conditioning, his play, encouragement of others,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien said of Kovalchuk, who was signed as a free agent last month. “He’s been a real good addition.”
Folin gave the Canadiens a 4-3 lead on a shot from the right point at 9:35 of the third. Devils forward Travis Zajac tipped the shot in the right circle and it bounced into the net.
The late power play allowed Palmieri to tie it with his 19th goal.
The Devils seemed to be in total command when Bratt beat Lindgren with a flubbed shot at 6:44 of the second period for a 3-0 lead.
The Canadiens’ chances of winning dimmed even more when Max Domi was penalized at 12:29, putting New Jersey on the power play.
Everything changed in the next 40 seconds.
Armia, who was stopped on a short-handed breakaway early in the period, picked off Palmieri’s pass at center ice and beat Domingue on a breakaway to cut the lead to 3-1.
“Right after the shorthanded goal, they turned it up to another level,” Palmieri said. “They played with the desperation they needed to get back in the game and we were unable to match it. That’s what happens. We found a way to grind out and get a point but, yeah, we were controlling the game until that point and I think we let our foot off the gas and they picked it up.”
Thompson narrowed the deficit to a goal less than four minutes later, making a power move from the right point and scoring his third of the season from in close.
Cousins tied jt at 7:22 of the third with a shot in close off a nice setup by Brett Kulak.
Wood had given New Jersey a 1-0 lead midway through the first period with a bad-angle shot Lindgren misplayed.
Palmieri stretched the lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal at 1:51 of the second. Bratt got his 10th of the season despite almost whiffing on a shot.
The flu bug was going around. Devils D P.K. Subban and Price and fellow Canadiens Victor Mete and Jordan Weak were all ill.
NOTES: … Kovalchuk and Devils Andy Greene and Zajac were all on New Jersey’s 2012 Cup finalists. … New Jersey played without C Nico Hischier and D Sami Vatanen. Hischier had stitches in his knee and Vatanen took a shot off his foot on Saturday. … Bratt extended his points streak to four games with an assist on Wood’s goal. … Devils F Joey Anderson and D Colton White were recalled from Binghamton (AHL) and played in their first NHL game of season.
Canadiens: Return to Montreal to host Anaheim on Thursday night.
Devils: At Philadelphia on Thursday night. New Jersey is 0-1-1 against Flyers.
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