NEWARK, N.J. — Nathan Bastian scored his first NHL goal, Kurtis Gabriel got his second and the last-place New Jersey Devils continued to be a thorn in Montreal’s playoff hopes, beating the Canadiens 2-1 on Monday night.
Recently acquired defenceman Connor Carrick set up both goals and Cory Schneider made 34 saves as the Devils swept their three-game season series with the Canadiens.
Montreal had a lot more at stake. It came into the night with a one-point lead over Carolina and Pittsburgh for the top wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes and Penguins now each have a game in hand.
Not only did the Devils win, they did it with a lineup that included seven players who spent the majority of the season with New Jersey’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton. They also did it with forwards Miles Wood and John Quenneville missing most of the final two periods after being hurt. Earlier in the day, the Devils traded goaltender Keith Kinkaid to Columbus and forward Marcus Johansson to Boston.
Paul Byron scored a short-handed goal for Montreal, and Carey Price made 20 saves.
Trailing 2-0 and with the Devils on a power play, the Canadiens got back into the game on a great individual effort by Byron, who recently returned to the lineup after missing six games with an arm injury.
Byron picked up a loose puck near his own blue line, outskated defenceman Damon Severson into the Devils zone and beat Schneider with a shot to the top corner at 6:30 of the third period.
Montreal threatened in the final 13 minutes but Schneider made excellent saves on Max Domi and Brendan Gallagher on a power play in the last 10 minutes. Schneider’s best save might have been a stop on a short-handed breakaway by Artturi Lehkonen in the first period.
Bastian, recalled from the minors Sunday, tipped Carrick’s shot under Price’s pads at 12:35 of the first period. He made his NHL debut on Jan. 19 and this was his second game.
Gabriel, who scored his first NHL goal against Ottawa last week, got his second with a backhand off a shot from the point by Carrick at 3:06 of the second period.
NOTES: Price has started the last 11 games for Montreal. … Devils D Eric Gryba cleared waivers and was assigned to Binghamton. … New Jersey called up four players from its AHL affiliate the past two days: Bastian, G Mackenzie Blackwood, D Egor Yakovlev and forward Michael McLeod. … New Jersey D Will Butcher and forward Jesper Bratt were scratched with lower-body injuries.
Canadiens: Play the second of back-to-back road games in Detroit on Tuesday night.
Devils: Play the second of a three-game homestand Wednesday night against Calgary.
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Tom Canavan, The Associated Press