Tedenby was stopped on a penalty shot. GETTY IMAGES
For just the third time in 23 seasons, the Stanley Cup playoffs will get under way without the Devils.
Needing to win all of their remaining games to have a chance at the postseason, the Devils were handed a 3-1 defeat by the visiting Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.
Martin Brodeur flashed his typical brilliance against his hometown team, but it wasn’t enough. Ex-Devil Brian Gionta set up two Mathieu Darche goals and P.K. Subban added a power-play tally to end New Jersey’s improbable quest.
The Devils (36-37-5) will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996, ending the NHL’s second-longest active streak at 13 seasons.
“We knew it was going to come,” said Brodeur. “It doesn’t come as a shocker, really. We had a good run, we played really hard to get ourselves in a position to compete for the last 10 games or 15 games or so and try to get into the playoffs. It was just too much. We’ve got four more games to just try to keep on doing what we’re doing, try to play hard and get some wins.”
It was an incredible climb, though. The Devils were all but dead by the season’s halfway point and came back with a run that few thought were possible.
We had a good run, we played really hard to get ourselves in a position to compete for the last 10 games or 15 games or so and try to get into the playoffs.- Martin Brodeur
“I think it’s pretty impressive for where we came from,” Brodeur said. “I think we have to be happy to have done so. It could have been a lot more miserable way of playing the last 41 games of the season.”
Brodeur made 26 saves and kept his team in it until the third period. Montreal added two in the final frame to take a 3-0 lead before Ilya Kovalchuk's 29th put the Devils on the board with 5:59 to go.
“Can you ask Marty to be better than he was tonight?” Jacques Lemaire asked. “He had nobody in front of him.”
It was a bittersweet return for Zach Parise, who came back after missing 65 games only to see the postseason dream end with four games to go.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose,” Parise said. “Regardless of coming back or not, it’s always disappointing. That doesn’t feel good for anybody.”
Parise saw 16:05 of ice time on 21 shifts, registering two shots and one takeaway in his first game since Oct. 30.
Fans at the Rock had a warm welcome ready for Parise. GETTY IMAGES
He felt “better as the game went on. First period, first couple of shifts I just felt way behind. There’s areas on the ice when you know where other guys are going to be and where pinching defensemen are going to be. That’s something when you’re away from the game for so long you kind of forget and you’re not ready for.”
The knee wasn’t a problem at all.
“That’s what was the reassuring thing,” Parise said. “Engaging in battles down low and one-on-ones with guys, pushing and shoving, I didn’t feel it at all. That’s always a good sign. I’m sure it’s going to be sore tonight and tomorrow, but what I wanted to get accomplished: I didn’t feel it. That’s the good thing.”
Parise started the night with Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby before Lemaire began juggling the top three lines. The coach was disappointed enough in his team’s performance that the playoff elimination didn’t seem to be the worst part of his night.
“Because I was bothered by this game,” Lemaire said. “So much, how we played. I was bothered so much by how we played, never crossed my mind.”
Trailing by two late in the third, Lemaire decided against pulling Brodeur to try and even the score.
“Why didn’t I? The way we were playing,” Lemaire said. “We were playing so bad I didn’t want another goal [against].”
Tedenby was stopped by Carey Price on a penalty shot at 4:48 of the first. He deked Price and released a backhander that went off Price’s left skate, then the right post, and finally Price’s right leg. Tedenby drew the call against Hal Gill after Josefson sent him in alone on a breakaway.
Parise had two shots on goal. GETTY IMAGES
It was Tedenby’s second career penalty shot. He previously scored on Washington’s Braden Holtby on Nov. 22.
Price finished with 20 saves and became the first Canadiens goaltender since Patrick Roy in 1991-92 to record 36 wins.
Less than five minutes after the penalty shot, Darche gave Montreal a 1-0 lead. With one hand on his stick, Darche reached out on his backhand to redirect Gionta’s pass inside the right post at 9:43.
Parise fired up the jets late in the period, launching an off-wing shot that trickled through Price, but wide. He drove the net to help draw the Devils’ first power play. The man advantage was little help as Brodeur was tested with two shots, including Tomas Plekanec’s shorthanded breakaway at 3:48.
Brodeur came out to pokecheck Plekanec, but the puck wound up behind him. Travis Moen got to the loose change and backhanded it just wide of the open net.
Brodeur was superb in the second. He made a goal line stop on Darche’s chance for a Gionta rebound at 7:03, then did it again on Mike Cammalleri’s doorstep jam at 7:25.
“They played pretty hard, they were skating pretty good,” Brodeur said. “I think we turned the puck over too much early in the game and they got a lot of momentum. I think it kept us on our heels most of the game."
When Jay Leach was whistled for putting the puck over the glass with 1:02 to go, Brodeur proved the Devils’ best penalty killer. He turned away Subban’s one-timer from right hashes with 31 seconds left in the period, then stymied two Cammalleri darts with under 10 seconds to go.
Subban would convert on the Leach penalty, blasting a Plekanec pass for a power-play goal 29 seconds into the third. Gionta then set up Darche’s second of the game, 12th of the season, for a 3-0 visitors’ lead. Darche got enough of his stick on Gionta’s pass to redirect the puck inside the left post at 3:34.
“They dictated the play most of the game,” Brodeur said. “It was still a ballgame until the third period, and after that they scored a quick one on the power play there.”
A great effort by Patrik Elias got the Devils on the board. He lured Price out of the crease, then carried the puck around the back of the net to find Kovalchuk in front for the tap-in at 14:01.
“I’m sick and tired,” said Kovalchuk, who scored after the Devils pulled Brodeur on a delayed penalty. “We put so much in the second half and we came up short. It [stinks]. But it’s going to make our team better next year.”
But like Kovalchuk, Brodeur likes what he sees on the Devils’ horizon.
“We’ve all worked hard, listened to what our coach had to say and went out there and did it,” Brodeur said. “It’s unfortunate we couldn’t continue as much as people believed that we could have, but it took a lot of energy from everybody to do it. Our future will be bright, there’s no doubt about that.”
Since making the playoffs for the first time in 1987-88, the Devils have only failed to qualify in 1988-89, 1995-96, and this year. … Colin White missed his fourth game with a lower body injury. Anton Volchenkov (lower body) was also sidelined. Volchenkov returned Friday after a two-game absence. … Parise saw some time with Kovalchuk on the right wing, something Lemaire had previously said he wouldn’t try. … Tedenby's two penalty shot attempts ties the NHL single-season rookie record, accomplished most recently by Jordan Staal in 2006-07, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … The Devils visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday and return to host Toronto on Wednesday. They head to MSG next Saturday to battle the Rangers, and close out the regular season at home against Boston next Sunday.
-- Missing the playoffs is something new for Elias, who made his postseason debut in 1996-97 – the season after the Devils' last miss.
"It's disappointing, no question about it," Elias said. "Like I've said many times, you work so hard in the off-season to get yourself ready, and training camp and 82 games to put yourself in the playoffs and have an opportunity to compete for a Stanley Cup. When you don't do that, it's disappointing. This is the first time for me. There's a first time for everything, but I wish this wouldn't be the case this year."
Despite once being so far out of it by Game 41, the Devils were mathematically alive until Game 78.
"I think the second half, there's a lot of positives to be taken from this into next year," Elias said. "We know that, but we just came up short. It was too big of an uphill battle for us. It's disappointing, but we feel like we have a good enough team to compete with anybody, and we proved it to ourselves in the second half. We have to do it now for four games here because we owe it to ourselves, to the fans. It's our job, so we have to do it the best way we can, still, and take positives out of that."
-- The Devils had been first-round casualties in three straight seasons coming into this one. But an early playoff exit isn't the same as failing to get in.
"When you get into the playoffs and you go through the battle of a series, it's a different feeling," Brodeur said. "This is a whole season and I think everybody expected what happened today. It's not like it came last game of the season. That could probably answer [the] question better. Right now, we were just waiting for it. We wanted to play hard, but we were waiting for the teams to win and we were done. It was out of our hands for a long time."
-- Brodeur entered the game with a 40-16-5 mark against the Canadiens, including a 1.74 GAA, .933 save percentage and nine shutouts. He was 2-0-0 against them this season with one shutout and a 0.00 GAA. He was credited with the win at Montreal on Feb. 6 when he left the game after the first period with a knee injury.
-- Lemaire took few positives from the game outside of Brodeur's effort.
"I'm trying to find another guy besides Marty that played well," Lemaire said. "I can't."
Brodeur on Parise:
"You could see he hadn’t played in a while, but I think the effort was there, the energy. He looked pretty good to me. It’s like anything, when you miss a lot of time, timing sometimes is not quite right. But he’ll work and I think it’s a good thing for him to be able to go through a full game. I’m sure we’ll really see how he feels tomorrow, but it’s fun to see him back in the lineup, that’s for sure."
Brodeur on the strong turnout of Canadiens fans:
“That’s impressive, that’s all I can say. Better than the Rangers [fans] when they come here. Yeah, it was impressive. I know the Montreal Canadiens fans are diehard, but to show up in the numbers that they did and how much noise they made, it was weird. It was definitely not something I was expecting. I knew there were a lot of people coming, but not half the crowd.”
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
3 - 0 MTL