RECAP | Canadiens – Devils: Kovalchuk, Lindgren Shootout Heroes for Habs

Canadiens Lineup

Forward lines

Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher

Ilya Kovalchuk  – Nick Suzuki – Joel Armia

Artturi Lehkonen – Max Domi – Nick Cousins 

Ryan Poehling – Nate Thompson – Dale Weise

Defence pairings

Ben Chiarot – Shea Weber

Brett Kulak – Jeff Petry

Marco Scandella – Christian Folin

Goaltenders

Charlie Lindgren – Cayden Primeau

Scratches

Jordan Weal (flu), Victor Mete (flu), Carey Price (flu)

Injuries

Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin

Game Report

Feel good games. In the scheme of things, these two points won’t mean a lot at the end of the season. But for a group of players who are on track to missing the playoffs, being able to enjoy a unifying moment in the midst of a tough season, will go a long way.  

Winning in a shootout allowed the Habs to feel good emotionally when so many were not well physically. The same flu bug that kept Carey Price, Victor Mete and Jordan Weal out of the lineup had several players leaving the bench to take trips to the dressing room during play. Ryan Poehling had multiple hall passes.

So many other narratives were in play.

Joel Armia triggered the Canadiens comeback after creating a neutral zone turnover and going in alone. It was just one of four takeaways on the night for Armia. The goal was his 14th of the season, a new career high.

There was Ilya Kovalchuk, who was booed enthusiastically by Prudential Center fans each time he touched the puck. The last time the puck was on his stick in the game was just prior to putting the game-deciding goal past Devils netminder Louis Domingue.

And then the magic of Charlie Lindgren. The 26-year-old was the subject of unfair criticism on social media when he misjudged an angle nine minutes into the game. No mention, of course, of Brett Kulak’s misplay or Christian Folin getting outskated and outmuscled. Or an acknowledgement that sitting for weeks between starts doesn’t help keep a backup razor sharp.

Lindgren battled back with three huge saves before the first period was done, including two of the 10-bell variety. It looked like it would be another case of failed run support for a Lindgren start. The Habs have scored just five goals total in his three starts prior to tonight.

But with Lindgren refusing to give up, the Canadiens finally woke up starting with Armia’s shorthanded goal with seven minutes left in the second period. 

The game was a sloppy affair on both sides, just as you might expect for two teams who are destined to be eligible for the draft lottery. But that yielded some entertaining moments.

And to add extra drama, the Canadiens were assessed yet another too many men penalty with 1:09 left on the clock. It appears that line changes are something on the coach’s fix-it list that he just hasn’t gotten around to heading into the fifth month of the season. It was the second power-play goal for Kyle Palmieri and another failed penalty-kill for the Canadiens with Phillip Danault on the ice.

The game finished in dramatic fashion with Kovalchuk silencing Devils fans with the game-deciding goal. Lindgren stoned all three skilled New Jersey shooters — Nikita Gusev, Kyle Palmieri, Jack Hughes — in the shootout (assisted by a brief scouting report on Gusev by Kovalchuk) for his well-earned, first victory of the season.

The Canadiens will host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.

Plus / Minus

▲  Charlie Lindgren, Joel Armia, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nick Cousins, Artturi Lehkonen 

▼  Phillip Danault, Brett Kulak, Christian Folin