By Andrew Gross/The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)
This version of the Devils likely ended their time together with a second straight overtime heartbreaker.
The Devils twice could not hold a two-goal lead and lost, 4-3, to the Canadiens on Monday night, the team’s final game before the NHL trade deadline and general manager Ray Shero likely to be a seller given the long-shot odds of making the playoffs.
Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime, power-play winner at 2:54. The Devils also could not hold a third-period lead and lost, 4-3, in overtime to the Rangers on Saturday.
Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri each had a goal and an assist and Cory Schneider made 29 saves for the Devils (25-25-12), in an 0-2-2 skid.
Al Montoya stopped 34 shots for the Canadiens (34-21-8), who tied the game with 51.8 seconds left in regulation on Max Pacioretty’s second goal of the game.
The trade deadline comes Wednesday at 3 pm and the Devils don’t play again until starting a two-game trip – and a stretch of five of six on the road – at Washington on Thursday night.
But what players would – or would not – be part of the group the next time the Devils played was not the focus on Monday.
“Honestly, you realise it can be,” captain Andy Greene said of Monday being this particular group’s last game together.
“But you don’t really think about it. In our reality, it could be any game. The group could change every game. But with a hard deadline now and with where we are, who knows what’s going to happen.”
“It’s always difficult but we’re not looking at it that way,” Schneider added. “We’re looking at it as we trust Ray and we trust management and they’re going to do what’s necessary to make us a better team whether it’s now or in the future.”
The Devils are seven points behind the Maple Leafs, who acquired ex-Ranger forward Brian Boyle from the Lightning on Monday, for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Those are areas that we don’t control,” center Adam Henrique said. “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business. But, as professionals, we have to put that aside and focus on the game.”
What the Devils’ players wanted to control was making Shero’s job difficult in terms of deciding to be a deadline buyer or a seller.
But Monday’s overtime loss completed a 4-4-3 February in which the Devils played nine of 11 games at The Rock.
“Obviously we could’ve made it a little harder,” Greene said. “We’ve been playing really well the last week to 10 days, playing hard hockey, the way we like to play. Some games we got rewarded for it. Some we didn’t but we’re playing the right
The Devils actually played two ways on Monday: The frantic third period, which featured four goals, and the glacial first 40 minutes.
John Moore, in the lineup with defenseman Kyle Quincey being held out pending an expected trade, gave the Devils a 2-0 lead with a blue-line slap shot at 2:38 of the first period. But Alexander Radulov cut it back to 3-2 just 11 seconds later.
Zajac’s power-play goal at 7:54, just six seconds after Radulov hooked Albany (AHL) call-up Blake Coleman, regained a two-goal lead for the Devils. But, again, the Canadiens responded quickly as Max Pacioretty’s rebound goal cut it to 3-2 just 43 seconds later.
The Devils capped a slow-paced first period with an exciting ending as Zajac fed Palmieri, who beat Montoya from the slot for a 1-0 lead with 18.8 seconds remaining. That gave Palmieri four goals in a four-game point streak and extended Zajac’s point streak to five games. Meanwhile, the Devils lost third-line center Jacob Josefson to an upper-body injury as he played three shifts in the first period and exited the game at 7:15.
Wild 5 Kings 4 (overtime)
Canadiens 4 Devils 3 (OT)
Lightning 5 Senators 1
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