The Canadian Press
MONTREAL–New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career short-handed goal.
Hall scored the winner in the third period–a short-handed breakaway–as New Jersey rallied to beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 yesteray to remain in the thick of the playoff race.
As time expired on a Devils’ too-many-men penalty, which saw the Canadiens play 52 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey, Hall emerged from the penalty box, took a pass from Travis Zajac, and beat Carey Price blocker side at 15:53 of the third.
“I’m not much of a short-handed threat but it’s nice to get one there,” said Hall, who extended his point streak to eight games.
“Two minutes feeling shame and trying to think about what you’re going to do when you get out, and then you get a breakaway chance like that after a great kill by our guys,” he noted.
The goal was Hall’s fourth in his last three games and 37th on the season.
The 26-year-old already has set career highs in goals and points (89) this season.
“You’re always thinking this is the time I’m going to get a breakaway out of the box,” said Hall.
“Usually you go in for a defensive zone shift and you’re hemmed in for a while,” he noted.
“Just a great kill by our 5-on-3 group.”
The victory gave the Devils (42-28-9), who have not qualified for the playoffs since 2012, a seven-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Florida does have two games in hand.
“We’re excited about it but it’s about our game,” said Devils’ coach John Hynes.
“You can’t get too wrapped up in those situations,” he stressed. “We need to make sure that our focus level is our game, and where we’re going, and making sure we’re ready to continue to play.”
Down 1-0 going into the third, Nico Hischier tied things up 26 seconds into the period.
With his back to the goal, Hischier got the blade of his stick on a shot from Sami Vatanen and deflected the puck past Price.
Hischier, the only Devils’ player to dress for all 79 games this season, nearly gave the visitors the lead on two occasions in the third.
The 2017 first-overall draft pick was stopped by Price on a breakaway before hitting the post a minute later.
“Every single guy in here wanted this win,” said Hischier. “A huge two points.
“At the end, we just found a way,” he added. “That’s all that matters at the end of the season, to win games.”
Keith Kinkaid, making his sixth-straight start, stopped 25-of-26 shots.
Daniel Carr scored a first-period goal for the 28th-place Canadiens (28-39-12), who already have been eliminated from playoff contention.
Playing his 556th game with Montreal, Price tied Jacques Plante for most games by a goaltender in team history.
He made 30 saves in defeat.
“It was a good performance from this team,” said Canadiens’ coach Claude Julien. “Price was very good.
“We battled hard and did some good things,” he added. “It was a very physical game.
“It’s unfortunate because we played a good game but still found a way to lose.”
Both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back series.
Montreal had lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday while New Jersey beat the N.Y. Islanders 4-3.
The Canadiens finished 4-8-2 this season in the second game of a back-to-back.
Elsewhere in the NHL, Philadelphia edged Boston 4-3 (OT), Nashville beat Tampa Bay 4-1, Washington downed Pittsburgh 3-1, and Anaheim topped Colorado 4-3 (OT).