MONTREAL - The Canadiens were hoping to end their five-game losing string against the team that started it all earlier in the month, but couldn't get the job done and fell 6-4 to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at the Bell Centre.
The Devils got on the board first. The Canadiens were caught up ice and New Jersey took advantage to rush in on a 2-on-1, with Blake Coleman one-timing it past starter Carey Price off a pass from Nikita Gusev.
The Canadiens didn't wait long to reply, however. At 7:41, just 22 seconds after the Coleman goal, Brendan Gallagher redirected Phillip Danault's shot, with the puck squeezing by New Jersey backstop Mackenzie Blackwood to make it 1-1.
It was Gallagher's team-leading 10th tally of the season, making him the first Hab to get into double digits in goals in 2019-20.
The Devils didn't stop there, though. Gusev entered the Canadiens zone and, facing pressure from the Montreal defense, lobbed it towards the net where a waiting Travis Zajac whacked it in to put New Jersey ahead 2-1 at the 8:17 mark.
After sustaining pressure in the Devils' end late in the period, Jordan Weal drew a penalty and helped send rookie Jack Hughes to the box for tripping. The Habs finished the frame on the power play, but were unable to even the score and the first ended with New Jersey up 2-1.
The Habs were still up a man to start the second. And though they weren't able to score with the man advantage, they did tie the game just as Hughes' penalty expired. Max Domi found Jesperi Kotkaniemi near the hashmarks, and the sophomore center wristed it past Blackwood to make it a 2-2 game.
Miles Wood gave New Jersey another lead just minutes later. The 24-year-old accepted a two-line pass from Pavel Zacha, escaped alone, and beat Price for his third of the season.
A bit later in the middle frame, the puck bounced to Joel Armia at the faceoff dot to Blackwood's right, and the Finnish forward wristed it past him to tie the game with his eighth of the season.
Jesper Boqvist would put the Devils up by one again when he took advantage of a bouncing rebound in the slot, wiring it past Price to make it 4-3 Devils.
With just 8.7 seconds to go in the second, Price made a beautiful acrobatic save to hold the Devils' lead at one, and that's where things would stand after 40 minutes. Montreal was outshooting New Jersey 35-22 heading into the third.
Towards the midway mark of the final frame, the Devils added to their lead when Damon Severson beat Price with a high wrister to double his team's lead.
But seconds later, Mike Reilly skated the puck in and after going behind the net, fed the puck into the slot where Artturi Lehkonen was able to shove it past Blackwood to once again make it a one-goal game.
Coleman added an empty-netter with 1:16 to go to seal the deal for the Devils.