We all knew the New Jersey Devils’ unbeaten streak wouldn’t last forever.
Sure enough, it ended Sunday.
Yet, their grit and tenacity was certainly displayed at Bell Centre in their 4-3, overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Sure, it was New Jersey’s worst effort to date, — especially defensively– but the Devils still managed to gain point No. 7. The Devils battled back from 3-1 down, scoring two third-period goals.
Despite the loss, Patrik Elias recorded a goal and two assists for his 900th career point when he assisted on Dainius Zubrus’ third-period marker. Zubrus’ goal forced overtime.
Yet, Andrei Markov’s power-play goal at 4:23 of extra time improved Montreal to 3-1-0.
New Jersey’s defense was downright awful in the first period.
Marek Zidlicky started a common theme just five seconds in when he gave up the puck, allowing Rene Bourque to get a chance. The Devils didn’t stop turning over the puck and taking penalties until the period ended. Every Devil defender was guilty of either a penalty or catastrophic giveaway.
Andy Greene was the worst offender, as his first giveaway gave Eric Cole a two-on-one break that Mark Fayne thwarted. Greene also gave the puck away on Brendan Gallagher’s goal at 13:35, which put Montreal ahead 2-0.
Greene also took the penalty that led to Markov’s winner in overtime when he took down Cole driving to the net.
Jacob Josefson was King Giveaway for Devils forwards. Josefson was a minus-2 and had bad giveaways on Ryan White’s first-period goal and Brandon Prust’s third-period marker.
Though Elias was the Devils’ best forward, Zubrus and David Clarkson both were great too.
Clarkson netted his third goal of the season– a five-on-three tally from Elias and Ilya Kovalchuk that cut Montreal’s advantage to 3-1. Clarkson also had three points and shared the team lead with four shots on goal.
Elias made an underrated play on Zubrus’ goal, when he negated icing by beating Josh Gorges to the puck. Elias and Clarkson traded passes, then Elias found Zubrus to tie the game.
Elias also re-directed Fayne’s point shot to put New Jersey on the board at 3:26 of the second.
“I just re-directed it, I was looking at (Fayne) and got a stick on it,” Elias told MSG-Plus’ Deb Placey during the second intermission. “I was a little bit worried that they might look for a high stick there.”
One of the Devils’ old nemeses burned New Jersey again.
Prust may have only played 11:36, but he batted the puck out of the air for an insurance goal early in the third.
The ex-New York Ranger– who signed a four-year deal in Montreal this past summer– thwarted Kovalchuk’s second-period breakaway when he got away with an apparent slash.
Montreal’s forwards put significant pressure on the Devils all night.
Cole appears to have found the fountain of youth in Montreal. He successfully tied-up Salvador on Markov’s game winner, and also got an assist. Former Devil Brian Gionta led Montreal with seven shots, and Bourque played 22:01, earning an assist on Markov’s goal, as well.
The Canadiens’ young forwards were dominant too. Alex Galyenchuk had two assists, including the primary on Gallagher’s first-period goal.
Galyenchuk’s just 18. Gallagher is only 20.
Montreal goalie Carey Price was strong too, stopping 22 shots.
Kovalchuk and Clarkson each increased their point-scoring streaks to four.
Elias’ three-point night lifted him to the a tie for the team-lead in points. He and Clarkson both have six points.
Kovalchuk would have gotten his sixth point, but he hit the post in overtime on a three-on-one break.
The Gionta brothers went head-to-head when Montreal was on the power play.
Brian and Stephen playing against one another confused his parents.
“We don’t know who to cheer for,” the brothers’ dad Sam Gionta told Placey.
Despite the loss, the Devils remain atop the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey leads the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point for the division lead. The Devils currently are the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed, trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning by a point.
The Devils and Canadiens have each allowed only seven goals through four games; that leads the Eastern Conference. The San Jose Sharks have also surrendered just seven goals.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division on Sunday:
Tampa Bay (4-1-0) 5, Philadelphia (2-4-0) 1
Winnipeg (3-1-1) 5, New York Islanders (2-3-0) 4, OT
Up Next: The Devils will trek to Boston, Tuesday, to take on the Bruins at 7 p.m.
Pat Pickens is a lifelong Devils-fan and New Jersey native. To pay the bills, he works as a sports reporter for Hearst in Connecticut. Send him an email at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter here.