NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — The way Sam Montembeault was playing in goal against the red-hot New Jersey Devils, the Montreal Canadiens certainly didn’t look like one of the NHL’s weaker teams.
Montembeault stopped three breakaways and made 37 saves as the Canadiens stunned the Devils 5-2 on Tuesday night, snapping New Jersey’s six-game home winning streak.
“I felt good. I was seeing the puck well,” Montembeault said. “We blocked a lot of shots to help me out. The guys came up with big blocks, but I remember giving up two breakaway goals on my blocker side against Carolina and I worked on that a lot in the last few practices so I’m happy to get the stops tonight.”
Defenseman Johnathan Kovacevic and Nick Suzuki scored in a 1:13 span in the second period to put Montreal ahead. Justin Barron, Rem Pitlick and Mike Matheson also scored for the Canadiens (24-29-4).
The Canadiens, 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference standings, had lost their last two games by a combined 11-3 score.
“It’s definitely rewarding for a coach to see instant improvement and the buy-in,” coach Martin St. Louis said. ”I always say I think as coaches you’re trying to convince them to do things a certain way and when they do it and get rewarded I think it’s a lot easier to convince them through the success we’re having. It’s a buy-in and we have that.”
Jesper Bratt and Dawson Mercer scored for New Jersey, which lost for only the third time in 18 games (13-3-2). Vitek Vanecek had 13 saves in losing for the sixth time (24-6-3).
Devils defenseman Damon Severson wasn’t sure if the team took Montreal lightly.
“It was just we didn’t have it on the gas right from the start,” he said. “So we like to say we didn’t take it for granted, but maybe we did. And they’re still a really good hockey team. So it’s the NHL. You’re going to play good players, good teams every night. And they took advantage of us tonight.”
Montembeault was the difference, stoning Brendon Smith, Miles Wood and Mercer on breakaways while making outstanding stops on Ondrej Palat an Bratt in close, the latter when he was looking the wrong way and the shot hit off his pad.
Kovavcevic snapped a 1-all tie at 2:29 of the second period when he beat Vanecek from between the circles on a nice setup by Jesse Ylonen. It was his second goal of the season and first since Dec. 6.
Suzuki, who also had an assist, stretched the lead to two goals with a shot to the corner on an odd-man rush after a New Jersey turnover in the offensive zone.
“I can’t say enough good things about Sam,” Kovacevic said. “He’s been great for us all year and tonight he showed us again whey we really have to thank him on a lot of those breakaways … I was out there for a few of them and he has my back. So I appreciated that.”
Pitlick made it 4-1, capping a rush up the ice early in the third period. After Mercer scored on a power play to cut the lead to 4-2, Matheson scored into an empty net with 3:47 to go to ice the game.
NOTES: The Devils recalled G Akira Schmid from Utica (AHL) on Tuesday. He served as the backup because Mackenzie Blackwood tweaked in his lower body earlier in the day. Ruff said he will know more about the goaltender’s status on Wednesday … Mercer has goals in a career-high four straight games. Matheson finished with a goal and an assist and Christian Dvorek had two assists. Ruff said the Devils are dealing with some illness and players need more rest so he gave the team off Wednesday. .. New Jersey is now 11-1 against team from Canada this season.
Canadiens: At Philadelphia on Friday in the third of a four-game trip.
Devils: Host Kings on Thursday in the third of four straight at home.
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