About Last Night: St. Louis trusts Barron in shootout loss to Devils

Sam Montembeault made 30 saves in the shootout loss. Justin Barron made his Habs debut and played 17:55.

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Rem Pitlick scored the game-tying goal with under a minute left in regulation, but the Canadiens came up short in the shootout, losing 3-2 to the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Sunday.

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Defenseman Justin Barron made his Habs debut wearing No. 52. Interim head coach Martin St. Louis entrusted the rookie with three shifts on three-on-three overtime. Barron played 17:55 in total, entirely on even-strength. He was paired with Joel Edmundson, who happened to be playing his 400th game in the NHL.

After five consecutive starts for Jake Allen, it was Sam Montembeault’s turn in goal and he made 30 saves. Former first overall pick Jack Hughes supplied all the offense for the Devils before the shootout, scoring twice.

After suffering upper-body injuries in Saturday’s game, Tyler Pitlick and Michael Pezzetta were replaced by Jesse Ylönen and Mathieu Perreault in the lineup. Ylönen didn’t play much, but assisted on the first Montreal goal.

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More so than their recent games against their playoff bound divisional rivals, this game had greater implications on the race to the NHL draft lottery: the Habs ended the night ahead of only Arizona and Seattle in the standings, while the Devils extended their lead over Montreal to six points.

The youthful Devils dazzled with their speed early, but Montembeault was there to shut the door with 12 first period saves, including a breakaway save on the lightning quick Jesper Bratt.

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With less than a minute left in the first, Montembeault blew his chance at a perfect period with a stick-handling miscue that landed on Hughes’ stick. Hughes launched a wrister top shelf to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead.

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Hughes scored again in the second period to extend New Jersey’s lead to 2-0. With Josh Anderson in the box, Bratt froze Montembeault with a fake shot before sending a precise pass across to Hughes, who buried the puck in the wide open net.

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Officially, the Habs went 0-for-5 on the power play, but only because Anderson scored his goal just as a penalty to Jonas Siegenthaler expired. Anderson broke a nine-game goalless drought (he hadn’t scored since his hat-trick against the Jets on Mar. 1) by tipping Ylönen’s shot past Daws. The Habs were once again hanging around in a game after 40 minutes, only down a goal.

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It doesn’t happen often, but in the third period, Nick Suzuki absorbed a big hit by freight train Miles Wood.

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After failing to score on a late power play, the Canadiens pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker. With 41.8 seconds left on the clock, Christian Dvorak found Pitlick backdoor with a behind the back pass. Pitlick slammed it home to send the game into overtime. The goal took a village after Dvorak won the initial faceoff. Nick Suzuki held the line and slapped the puck over Cole Caufield, who then put a quick shot on goal.

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In overtime, St. Louis showed faith in the newest Hab by putting Barron out with Suzuki and Caufield for the opening draw. Mike Hoffman had the best chance, hitting the post and out on a breakaway. He thought he’d scored, otherwise he could’ve taken a second shot after the puck popped back out. At the other end, Devils captain Nico Hischier also hit iron.

Hoffman made up for it with a shootout goal. Although he didn’t get his hat-trick, Hughes also scored in the shootout, flipping one softly over Montembeault.

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In the end, Yegor Sharangovich ended it for the Devils with a glove side goal, as Paul Byron couldn’t beat Daws on his chance.

It was another entertaining game, and a surprisingly physical one for two teams out of the playoff race. The Habs once again showed no signs of quitting under coach St. Louis, although it was hard to watch Hughes run amok for the other team and not wonder what life might be like if the Canadiens can get a first overall pick of their own. After two up-and-down seasons, Hughes has really come into his own in year three, becoming the point-per-game producer most pundits predicted.

The Canadiens are also using this final stretch to give their young defensemen some valuable minutes. Alexander Romanov nearly played a full game this weekend with 51:21 of ice-time. After playing arguably his worst game against the Panthers, Habs assistant coach Trevor Letowski praised Corey Schueneman for his impressive play a day later. The rookie settled down to gain another 35:25 of experience over the weekend. And all without defensive coach Luke Richardson, who remains in COVID protocol. With Barron in the fold and Jordan Harris set to arrive, how the Habs deploy their young rearguards will be fascinating to watch in the final month of the season.

The Liveblog commenters saw a ragtag bunch battle back from two consecutive poor starts to put points in the standings. They singled out Dvorak last game and he scored, and tonight they singled out Anderson and he scored. Could a pattern be developed? Who else needs to get off the schedule?

3. “1 pt is better than 2. Phew.” -Arthur Chili

2. “Since MSL took over they’ve all been close, save one game.” -Chris James

1. “Barron on the ice! Love it Marty.” -John Smith

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