When the Devils were awarded a penalty shot with 49.4 seconds to go in regulation, everything pointed to Zach Parise as the right man for the job.
They needed a goal to tie, Parise has been exceptional in shootouts (6-for-7) and had scored on his only previous penalty shot attempt earlier this season.
He skated in on Carey Price, went to the backhand move that has been so lethal this season, but was bested by Price's left pad. The Devils then couldn't cash in on a power play to close out the third period and came up short, 2-1, at Prudential Center on Saturday.
"I was just trying to go five hole, and I missed my shot," said a disappointed Parise.
He was selected to take it after Josh Gorges had covered up the puck in the Montreal crease during a netmouth scramble. The Devils were already on a power play, and had pulled Martin Brodeur for a 6-on-4 advantage.
Coach Peter DeBoer called Parise "a pretty obvious choice."
"Wasn't a lot of discussion on that," DeBoer said.
"He's the type of player that will score these types of goals," Brodeur said. "You went against not just a regular goalie, this kid's a really good goalie and he made a good save. That's how you win and lose games. It's individual performance sometimes. Carey got the best of Zach on that one."
Nick Palmieri notched his fourth for the Devils, who fell behind 2-0 when Erik Cole scored at 5:17 of the third period. Max Pacioretty tallied a power-play goal for the Canadiens, who snapped a two-game skid.
The loss halted the Devils' (14-13-1) winning streak at two games. They visit Tampa Bay on Monday.
"It's disappointing," DeBoer said. "We wanted to obviously win. I thought our failure was in not capitalizing early in the game. I thought in the first period, we had an opportunity to maybe even get a couple with the way we started. We didn't capitalize, we took some offensive-zone penalties that kind of took our momentum away. Still had a chance to pick up some points."
DeBoer felt his team had its chances before the penalty shot.
"The game wasn't lost on that play," he said. "That's the key to it. We had opportunities at different points in the game, I thought, to grab control, especially early, and we didn't."
Parise converted on his first career penalty shot when he beat San Jose's Antti Niemi on Oct. 21. Saturday's scenario was different with the Devils needing the late equalizer, and certainly more pressure-packed than a shootout.
"The shootout, I'm not saying it doesn't matter, but at least if you miss there, a couple of other guys have the opportunity," Parise said. "I missed a penalty shot late in the game to tie it up. It's a little different. A little more pressure on it."
Brodeur made 22 saves. Price stopped 28, but his biggest came versus Parise.
"It's disappointing, but there were a lot of positives: I thought our goalie was great," DeBoer said. "We just have to keep moving forward."
Montreal made it tough for the Devils to establish zone presence as the game went on, bottling up the neutral zone.
"We had a tough time getting in their zone all game," Parise said. "We made a pretty good push at the end, but that was it."
The two-goal deficit proved too much to overcome, though the Devils have shown a knack for rallies. They recovered Thursday from down 3-0 to top Ottawa in a shootout.
"Giving up the second goal put us in that hole," DeBoer said. "It was a little disheartening, we killed off another penalty there, and they got one. You get into a 2-0 hole with eight or 10 minutes left in a game, it's tough to overcome. We pushed to the end. We didn't fade."
The Devils got off to a strong start against a Montreal club that was coming off of back-to-back shootout defeats. New Jersey held an 11-4 advantage in shots through the opening 13 minutes.
Shorthanded pressure has been an important component of the Devils' penalty kill, and that showed on Montreal's first man advantage of the day. New Jersey put two shorthanded shots on Price, then negated the final 53 seconds when Dainius Zubrus drew a tripping minor on P.K. Subban while taking the puck to the net.
Later, with the Devils killing the final 30 seconds of a Zubrus minor to start the second period, Adam Henrique put the puck over the glass. New Jersey killed six seconds of a 3-on-5, but Henrique was still in the box when Pacioretty gave Montreal the first lead of the day.
Kaberle, acquired Friday from Carolina, gained the blue line and dished to Cole, who found Pacioretty near the top of the left circle for his 11th at 1:07.
New Jersey, which did not allow a power-play goal in its first 10 home games, has now allowed one in each of its last two at the Rock.
Cole put Montreal ahead, 2-0, in the third. The Devils couldn't control the loose puck after Brodeur stopped Mathieu Darche's slot one-timer, and Cole knocked it over the line for his 10th at 5:17.
Palmieri got the Devils on the board with 6:26 left in the third, putting Petr Sykora's rebound past Price.
"It definitely, I think, sparked us a little bit offensively," Palmieri said. "It was our first shift as a group together, me, Teddy (Mattias Tedenby) and Syky, so we were just trying to get out there and generate some offense. The puck kind of just found me there in front, I just turned around and shot it."
Notes and quotes DeBoer on the power play, which went 0-for-3: "There's different parts of our game where we don't play with that confidence. That's one of them. Montreal's got a very good penalty kill, too (2nd, 89% entering Saturday). They can make you look bad at different points, too."
Ilya Kovalchuk on Parise
"He's a great breakaway guy. He scored last game and he's six for seven [in the shootout]. I think it was a good choice. Next time he'll score."
• Adam Henrique's points streak (2g-7a) was snapped at seven games, the longest of any rookie this season, and second longest overall.
• Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom were recalled Friday from Albany (AHL) and made their season debuts together on the Devils' third defensive pairing.
"I thought they were good," DeBoer said. "I thought they moved the puck, they skated, they didn't look nervous. They looked good as a pair together against a tough team. Montreal throws a lot of speed at you."
• Ex-Devils Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez were scratched due to injury. Gionta's iron man streak was snapped at 153 consecutive regular season appearances.
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL