As the Devils headed north for their match against the Canadiens, Habs fans were met with the news that head coach Jacques Martin had been fired. Assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth was named as the interim head coach.
Cunneyworth joined the organization in 2010-11 as the head coach of the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, where the team went 44-27-9. He then joined the Canadiens coaching staff in 2011-12.
Larry Carriere, assistant general manager of the Canadiens, was appointed to the coaching staff as an assistant to Cunneyworth.
New Jersey Devils 5, Montreal Canadiens 3
Despite the new coaching change, the Devils were not able to unnerve the Canadiens on their home ice. Instead, both teams came in playing their A-game. The Habs were not going to make it easy for the Devils to win in their house.
With P.K. Subban doing his best to push Petr Sykora away from the net, Sykora was able to pop the puck up towards the net. He got a lucky break when Carey Price’s blocker batted the puck in the rest of the way, giving the Devils their first goal of the game at 7:05.
Towards the end of the first, Erik Cole delivered an illegal hit to the head of Adam Larsson at 18:53. Larsson lay on the ice in severe pain. Cole was given a two-minute penalty as a result. [The hit will likely be reviewed by the league for supplemental discipline.]
In the second period, Larsson returned to the bench. He reported after the game that they tested him and he felt alright afterwards. So far there’s no report of a serious injury.
With Mark Fayne in the penalty box for interference at 0:59, followed by Anton Volchenkov at 1:34 for cross-checking, Subban was able to rip one in from the top of the left circle at 2:21 during the two-man advantage.
Cole then headed to the penalty box again at 4:21 to serve a two-minute interference call, which allowed Patrik Elias to edge the Devils ahead 2-1. This goal tied Elias with John MacLean for the most goals in Devils’ history with 347.
Chris Campoli answered that Devils’ goal with one of his own to tie the game at 6:33. With Mathieu Darche doing well screening Martin Brodeur up front, Lars Eller was able to make it 3-2 from the slot in favor of the Habs at 8:57.
At 10:17, David Clarkson was called for a delayed roughing penalty. When he came out of the penalty box at 12:17, he tried to redeem himself by trying to get a couple shots on net. He wasn’t able to successfully beat Price until 18:26, ending the middle stanza tied with three goals.
In the final period, with some amazing puck passing chemistry between Sykora and Elias, Sykora passed the puck to Elias, where he finished it off at 1:31 to edge the Devils ahead 4-3. This goal officially made him the all-time leading goal scorer in Devils’ history.
With Max Pacioretty in the penalty box at 9:09, the Devils were able to seal the win when Dainius Zubrus beat Price at 10:18 to bring the score to 5-3.
The Devils kept the Canadiens out of their net for the remainder of the game. In the last seconds, Bryce Salvador was able to throw himself across the crease to block a shot into net, saving the Devils from a goal against to give them a big win in Montreal.
Elias’ Shining Moment
It’s not so often that Elias gets to have his own moment to shine. The last time he had a big night, he had to share it with Brodeur when he became the most winningest goaltender in the history of the NHL. Brodeur’s night eclipsed Elias’ new record of becoming the points leader in the history of the franchise. That’s why when the Devils fans talk about March 17th, they call it Marty’s St. Patrik’s Day.
On Saturday, when Elias became the Devils’ all-time goal scorer with 348 goals, he didn’t have to share it with anyone. If it had happened on Niedermayer’s night, it wouldn’t have been as important as it really was for both Elias and the Devils. Elias finally got a night all to himself.
“It’s a great feat for him,” Bryce Salvador said of Elias’ new record. “It’s something he should be proud of. I’m happy for him. It’s always great seeing someone do something like that.”
“I think it was great for him,” Brodeur said. “I wasn’t for sure what exactly was going on. They kept on picking up pucks for him. I’m like…alright, it’s got to be some important goal there. But he has been a good player for a lot of years in this hockey club.”
Elias was all smile after the win. He would have had a much different reaction to this new record if the team had lost. He always wants to win. That matters more to him than another record. But with a win in Montreal on top of breaking a new record…it gives him great reason to smile and cherish this one moment all for himself.