Five things we learned from Montreal Canadiens' 4-3 overtime loss to New Jersey Devils

Sporting News

The Montreal Canadiens are on the up and up. After falling just short of the postseason last year, they've been on a mission so far this season, eager to prove that they're not only a playoff team, but can actually work and lock down a spot this time around.

A top contender in the Atlantic Division this season, Montreal went into Saturday's game on a roll, winning three straight and posting a 7-2-1 record through their last 10 games. And coming off a dominant 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Friday, the Habs returned to Bell Centre with momentum — and it showed greatly against the last-place New Jersey Devils.

Despite a slow start that saw Montreal outshot 20-9 in the opening frame, the Canadiens still had a decent showing and almost pulled off a late victory until a last-minute goal was waved off. Ultimately, they fell 4-3 in overtime but still got a point out of the contest to improve to 11-5-4 (26 points).

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Cale Fleury makes statement with first NHL goal, strong game

Every player has one game that sticks with him in his career, and that may have come Saturday for Fleury. The 20-year-old defenseman was scoreless through his first 14 games of the season, leaving some wondering when he'd get his first NHL goal, let alone point. With each game came a harder effort, and it finally paid off.

Against the Devils, Fleury appeared to have more energy in his game. He looked solid, skating with a lot more speed and confidence, and it ultimately led to his first NHL goal 7:43 into the second period. Showing off his hands and getting more involved on the forecheck, he was able to deke his way in tight against MacKenzie Blackwood and fire the puck top shelf to make it 2-1.

He also shined in his own end, as his performance didn't stop at his first goal. Just minutes later on the backcheck he was able to get down and slide across to block a surefire shot with his foot and keep the Canadiens up by one. Through 13:57 of ice time, the defenseman finish with three shots, two hits, two blocks and a plus/minus rating of plus-1.

Brendan Gallagher stays hot

With back-to-back 50-point campaigns these last two years, it's easy to expect big things from Gallagher. Prior to puck drop against New Jersey, he was already impressing with 15 points in 19 games and kept the ball rolling Saturday.

The 27-year-old forward struck with under two minutes remaining in the first period to make it 1-0 for his ninth goal of the season, as well as his third straight game with a point.

Showing speed and grit, as well as a handful of great moves and strong positioning against the Devils, Gallagher demonstrated his skill set and continues to prove that he can be one of the league's noted goal scorers and top players over time.

He's now on pace for a career-high 39-goal season, which also would mark his third straight 30-goal campaign.

Nick Suzuki keeps it going

This Suzuki kid is pretty good at hockey. Like Gallagher, he's also now riding a three-game point streak, but he's also making the most of his rookie campaign, showing off his speed, hands and hockey IQ. He's also proving his worth over the recent stretch and showing that he's getting the hang of this thing.

Already proving to be a strong bottom-6 center, the 20-year-old forward is showing a lot of confidence and strength so far this season. With a power-play tally to give the Canadiens a two-goal lead in the second, he also showed that he can be an asset on special teams and that he can get to the right areas and follow the puck.

He's now registered five goals and nine points through 20 games this season, putting him on pace for a 37-point freshman showing. That's not too shabby for the 2017 first-rounder.

All things considered, a strong game for Phillip Danault

Danault headed into Saturday's game with four points over his previous two games, including three against Washington just a night before. Not only did he also extend his point streak to three games with an assist — a recurring storyline for the Habs against the Devils — but he was one of their strongest players.

The 26-year-old was able to get to high-scoring areas and take good care of the puck while generating scoring chances, winning faceoffs and playing a physical game. He finished with an assist and three hits while leading all forwards with 20:28 TOI.

His physical, gritty effort was seen through a last-minute goal, where he came speeding into the zone and was tripped up by P.K. Subban while crashing the net. As he fell and sprawled across the crease, he actually scored off his thigh, but it was disallowed as the referees deemed it "kicked" in.

It did appear that he pushed it in with the thigh — whether he thrusted his hip to score or was pushed further into the net is debatable — but as per Rule 78.5 (i) of the NHL rule book, "a goal is to be waved off when the puck has been deflected, batted or thrown into the net by an attacking player other than with the stick."

Despite the result, Danault played a strong overall game and proved to be a top center again for Montreal. He now has 15 points in 20 games and has earned his place on the top line between Gallagher and Tomas Tatar.

An alright showing for Keith Kinkaid

Sure, four goals allowed isn't great, but given his workload, Kinkaid's performance wasn't the worst. The 30-year-old netminder stopped 39 of 43 shots on the night, including 19 of 20 in the first period to keep the game even after one.

He also came up big with a number of strong saves for his team and almost saw his second victory of the season, but ultimately, a late goal from Wayne Simmonds on the power play and a Kyle Palmieri overtime winner sunk him in the end.

While he does need to do better when it comes to pulling together a full 60 minutes, he bailed the Habs out on numerous occasions, especially when the defense was weak at times throughout the night.

The backup is now 1-1-2 with a 4.24 GAA and .887 save percentage while winning four of eight possible points. Overall, Kinkaid and the defense corps will have to improve as to not overload Carey Price, while giving Montreal two stable goaltending options and helping the team stay in playoff position.

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