For the second time in as many games, New Jersey spotted the opposition a lead only to come back and win the game -- except this time it was in regulation.
Zach Parise scored his second goal of the night with 2:44 remaining in the third period and David Clarkson added an empty-net goal to give New Jersey a 5-3 victory over Montreal at Prudential Center. Parise's goal was the Devils third of four unanswered over the final 26-plus minutes, capping a comeback from a 3-1 deficit that kept the team in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Canadiens remain in 14th place and have lost twice in a row in regulation.
"It was a big win for us and a real gutsy effort," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "I don't know if there was one thing (that turned it around). I think we just stuck with it. On the bench we never felt we were out of the game. There was a good feeling that there was a lot of hockey left and we could climb back in. That's what we did."
Just prior to Parise's goal, defenseman Andy Greene kept the puck in the zone and onside to keep the Devils' possession alive. Greene, who was standing in the neutral zone, poked the puck up to Patrik Elias, who found Ilya Kovalchuk cutting down the middle. Kovalchuk's shot from between the circles was disrupted by David Desharnais, but the puck went forward to Parise, who was alone at the right post.
Parise quickly fired the puck in behind Montreal goalie Carey Price, who was out far enough to challenge Kovalchuk and didn't have enough time to get back. Kovalchuk was given credit for his third assist of the game and Parise gave credit to Greene for allowing the play to happen.
"A really good play," Parise said. "At that stage in the game sometimes you can be ultra conservative and the D can back out a bit, but that was a good read by him to keep that in there and keep the play alive. Then Kovy's shot, we got another fortunate bounce off one of their guy's stick and right to my skate."
It was a night of fortunate bounces for the Devils.
Clarkson sliced the Devils' deficit down to 3-2 when Kovalchuk's partially blocked one-timer from the left point skipped off his leg and past Price. The goal stood after a video review.
"Out of 82 games, not every game is going to be pretty and not every game you're going to win," Clarkson said. "But, sometimes you're going to win those games when maybe things aren't going your way, but the bounces are. We'll take that. The standings are so close, we'll take it."
Canadiens coach Randy Cunneyworth said Parise should never have been given a chance to score his winner. He thought Erik Cole was being hooked by Kovalchuk in front of the Habs' bench, and that's why Cole couldn't get up the wall in time to get to the puck ahead of Greene.
Greene was retreating, but he stopped, reached out his stick and poked the puck forward to keep it onside after Cole was slightly held up.
"Cole was obviously hooked and could not battle to get the puck out of the zone," Cunneyworth said. "He was held up by Kovalchuk, and that's a little bit beyond comprehension for me."
Cunneyworth also didn't like the fact that Patrik Elias was only given a two-minute minor for boarding Mike Blunden with 1:06 left in the first period. Blunden played one shift totaling 17 seconds early in the second and did not return. The Canadiens said he had a lower-body injury.
The Devils had several injury scares in the physical game, and finally rookie defenseman Adam Larsson had to leave the game with 5:58 remaining in the third period after he was hit hard by Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban.
Larsson remained down on the ice for several minutes with head trainer Rich Stinziano looking over him. He eventually had to be helped off the ice and assisted down the tunnel into the dressing room.
The Devils said he suffered a bruised lower back.
Larsson also got faceplanted into the glass on a hit by Mathieu Darche in the second period and remained down for a while. He appeared to suffer a cut below his eye, perhaps from his visor.
"I just caught the tail end of it, but the ref made it sound like it was a clean hit," Parise said of the Subban hit. "Hopefully, hopefully he's OK."
Montreal jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Desharnais and Andrei Kostitsyn before the game was 10 minutes old. DeBoer used his timeout after Kostitsyn scored with 10:37 still left in the first period.
"We needed a little wakeup call," Parise said.
The Devils responded with Parise scoring two shifts after the timeout.
The Canadiens built the lead back up to 3-1 with Darche's shorthanded goal 1:35 into the second period. Devils defenseman Kurtis Foster, the recipient of a hard hit from Darche late in the first period, sending him to the dressing room, was victimized by his poorly-timed turnover.
Foster did not play another shift in the game. DeBoer said it was a coach's decision, though the injury he appeared to suffer on the hit from Darche also played a role.
Nevertheless, the Devils mounted a comeback, just as they did several times during a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers on Tuesday.
Clarkson, Zubrus and Parise combined to score the four unanswered goals that gave the Devils some breathing room in the standings and had the Canadiens searching for answers and blaming the officiating.
"It's bounces that go their way, but it's still a lead that we blew," Desharnais said. "It's unacceptable. I don't know what to say."
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