NEWARK, N.J. – Tomas Kaberle got off to a fast start with the Canadiens.
Acquired in a trade with Carolina on Friday, Kaberle had two assists in his debut, leading Montreal to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday.
“I have to admit I was a little nervous at the start,” Kaberle said. “I had a new team with new teammates. I hadn’t practised in two days. I had a long travel day. We went over some things in the hotel before the game at breakfast, but I wasn’t sure of what to expect. I just had to jump in right away and be ready. I just had to try to keep it simple.”
The Canadiens snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Devils fell for the sixth time in their last eight games. It was only Montreal’s second win in the last eight games.
“You never expect to be traded,” said Kaberle, who also previously played for Toronto before being traded to the Boston Bruins ahead of last season’s trade deadline. “But I was happy it was Montreal. It’s a great organization and when I played for the Leafs, it was always special to go to Montreal to play.”
Kaberle, acquired Friday in a trade with the Hurricanes for fellow struggling defenceman Jaroslav Spacek, was brought in to help the Canadiens’ floundering power play—and he did that right away.
“He’s an experienced defenceman whose strength has always been quarterbacking the power play,” Montreal head coach Jacques Martin said. “He has good vision on the power play.”
Kaberle assisted on Max Pacioretty’s power-play goal in the second period and took the initial shot on Erik Cole’s third period goal. Cole also had an assist on Pacioretty’s goal.
Devils forward Nick Palmieri, who was sent down to Albany (AHL) Nov. 24, only to be recalled last week, scored his first goal since Nov. 15 in the third period.
Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price stopped 28 of 29 shots for his 11th win of the season, including a stop of a penalty shot on Zach Parise with just 47 seconds left.
The Devils were the early aggressors, controlling the early action, firing 13 shots on goal in the first period, including four during one flurry. Bryce Salvador had the best scoring chance of the period, but Price made a solid kick save on Salvador’s slapshot midway through the scoreless first period.
Late in the first period, the Devils killed off a brief 5-on-3 penalty and almost scored on it, when Dainius Zubrus fired a low shot that Price stopped with his pads.
But the Canadiens capitalized on a power-play opportunity in the opening minutes of the second period. Kaberle carried the puck into the Devils’ zone and left a drop pass for Cole, who made a one-time pass to Pacioretty.
“Kaberle created that play,” said Pacioretty, who scored his 11th goal of the season. “He brought two people to him and gave me a chance. He’s really going to help us.”
Pacioretty unleashed a high wrist shot that Devils’ goalkeeper Martin Brodeur had no chance to stop, giving Montreal a 1-0 lead. It was Pacioretty’s 11th goal of the season. It was the second straight game that the Devils surrendered a power-play goal after going the first 10 home games of the season and 40 power play chances without allowing one.
The Canadiens then pushed the lead to 2-0 at 5:27 of the third period, when Kaberle made another fine offensive play, firing a slapshot that Brodeur stopped. But Mathieu Darche secured the rebound, pushed it forward with a backhand and Cole alertly knocked it past Brodeur for his 10th goal of the season. Cole also got an assist on Pacioretty’s goal.
“Once you get into a two-goal hole that late in the third period, it’s tough to bounce back,” Devils head coach Peter DeBoer said. “Giving up the second goal was disheartening. In a game like this, getting the lead is the key. Once we were from behind, it was tough to come back.”
After being stymied for most of the afternoon by Price, the Devils finally got on the board with five minutes left, when Palmieri, who had been struggling early this season, earning a demotion to the minors, lifted the puck over Price after receiving a pass from Petr Sykora. Mattias Tedenby was also credited with an assist on Palimeri’s fourth goal of the season.
New Jersey had a great chance to tie the game and send it to overtime with just 47 seconds remaining in the third period when Montreal defenceman Josh Gorges was whistled for covering the puck with his hands in the crease, awarding a penalty shot to the Devils.
But Zach Parise’s attempt was stopped by Price, who kicked aside the penalty shot with his right pad.
“I’ve seen him try in the past to go backhand with a penalty shot, so after he started, I just slid to that side,” Price said. “It’s an exciting play, but if it goes in, you don’t feel the same way. I was glad to get an opportunity like that.”
“I just missed my shot,” Parise said. “I was trying to go five-hole. I just missed it. I don’t feel good about it right now.”
DeBoer said that wasn’t the reason why the Devils lost a tough one.
“We had other opportunities at different points of the game to gain control and didn’t do it,” DeBoer said. “That’s what happens when you don’t.”
Martin had praise for his goalkeeper, who was facing off against his childhood idol in Brodeur.
“It was a big save,” Martin said of Price’s stop. “Carey came up big in the early stages of the game and later on, he preserved the win.”
NOTES: Devils fans were hoping for a homecoming of sorts for former Stanley Cup stars Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, but both former Devils were scratched. Gomez has only seen action in 13 games without a goal, but Gionta has been productive with Montreal, scoring eight goals and collecting seven assists in 29 games. It was the first game Gionta missed in 153 straight games, dating back to Dec. 26, 2009. Gomez was out for the seventh straight game with a lower body injury. Gionta left the Canadiens’ loss to Vancouver Thursday with a lower body injury. … Devils C Travis Zajac (Achilles’ tendon surgery) continues to skate and will travel with the team to Florida. . Devils D Anton Volchenkov was a scratch due to a hand injury, although X-rays showed Friday that Volchenkov’s hand was not broken.