Plekanec, Canadiens top Devils 2-1 in OT to end 3-game slide
MONTREAL (AP) — A slick pass by Charles Hudon turned into a perfect opportunity for Tomas Plekanec in overtime.
Plekanec scored 1:52 into the extra period off a highlight-reel feed from Hudon, and the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 2-1 on Thursday night to snap a three-game slide.
“From the start of the game, (coach Claude Julien) asked us to win the battles along the boards,” said Hudon, who has 13 points this season. “I saw three guys coming towards me and I knew I couldn’t lose the puck. I was pretty sure Plekanec was in the slot, and once he got the puck, I knew the game was over.”
Andrew Shaw scored for the Canadiens (14-14-4) in the first period and Carey Price made 31 saves in his ninth straight start.
“He did a good job. He’s an elite goaltender. We had a shot mentality tonight, but unfortunately the plays around that area didn’t go in,” Devils coach John Hynes said.
Stefan Noesen had the goal for the Devils (17-9-5), who remained third in the rugged Metropolitan Division. Cory Schneider stopped 34 shots in defeat.
Plekanec beat Schneider between the legs after tremendous work along the boards by Hudon to get him the puck in open ice.
“That’s the extra effort that we need from guys,” Shaw said. “He was pinned up against the boards by two guys and he happens to get his stick loose and made a great play.”
With his team changing, Hudon skated past the blue line into the Devils zone and held the puck along the half wall. The rookie got pinned there by New Jersey’s Pavel Zacha and Sami Vatanen but still kept possession.
With Blake Coleman approaching, Hudon managed to get free and poked the puck to a streaking Plekanec, who scored his first goal in 18 games.
“I was just hoping it wasn’t going to bounce over my stick when he passed it to me,” Plekanec said. “Hudon made a great play winning that battle. Smart play.”
The Canadiens ended their 2-2-1 homestand on a positive note before they embark on a seven-game road trip, starting with Saturday’s outdoor game against the Ottawa Senators to mark the NHL’s 100th anniversary.
Playing their first game after a four-day break, the Canadiens showed some signs of rust, falling behind early. New Jersey scored on its first shot at 1:21 of the opening period after a defensive breakdown by the home side.
With a delayed penalty coming to Montreal, Noesen crossed the blue line unchallenged, took a short pass from captain Andy Greene and launched a wrist shot past Price to extend his point streak to five games.
Shaw, playing his 100th game in a Canadiens uniform, evened the score at 13:31 when he deflected Jordie Benn’s shot from the point through traffic past Schneider.
The Devils were without leading scorer Taylor Hall, who is day to day with a bruised knee sustained on Tuesday. Hall, who has 11 goals and 31 points, did not travel with the team to Montreal.
New Jersey could have used Hall in the second period when the Canadiens took back-to-back penalties, but the Devils failed to score on a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:05, thanks largely to shot blocking by Benn and Shea Weber.
Price made one big save on New Jersey’s power play, stopping Drew Stafford on the doorstep while sprawled out on the ice.
“On the power play we had some good looks but it didn’t get in the net for us,” Hynes said. “We competed hard tonight. We had some really good net traffic. We had lots of tips and we hit two posts.”
Montreal upped the pressure in the final period, outshooting New Jersey 13-7, but Schneider shut the door.
NOTES: The Devils are 10-4-3 on the road. ... Montreal forward Daniel Carr had his five-game point streak snapped.
Devils: Host the Dallas Stars on Friday night.
Canadiens: Play the Ottawa Senators at Lansdowne Park on Saturday night.
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