MONTREAL -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is best known for the plays he makes in the offensive end of the ice, but Monday he showed just how dominant he can be in his own end.
Subban stopped two New Jersey Devils shots on the goal line with his stick, allowing Alex Galchenyuk to score the deciding goal at 9:34 of the third period and give the Canadiens a 3-2 victory at Bell Centre.
The victory was the 11th straight game Montreal allowed two or fewer goals (8-1-2) and the eighth straight game for goaltender Carey Price, but that streak would have been broken were it not for Subban's two outstanding defensive efforts.
"I won't be taking Pricey's job any time soon, I think he's got that one pretty locked down," Subban said. "The amount of times that he's bailed me out, I don't mind stepping in there. He played so well today, just like he's done all year for us."
The first of Subban's goal-saving plays came in the fifth minute of the first period when Devils forward Jaromir Jagr deked around Price, went below the goal line and tried to stuff it in short side, only to be met by Subban's stick. In the third minute of the third period, a Steve Bernier shot squeezed through Price and was sitting in his crease when Damien Brunner tried to jam it in, but Subban slid into the net and stopped it with his stick on the goal line.
The Brunner chance went to a video review at the next whistle but was ruled to not have crossed the line.
"He bailed me out a couple of times, there's no doubt about that," said Price, who had another outstanding game with 28 saves. "That's been a key to our success this year, being able to count on the guy being there and having the ability to bail you out at the right time."
The two plays by Subban are not anomalies in spite of his reputation as a player who is too risky defensively, a term that continues to float around when his candidacy for the Canadian Olympic team is brought up.
It's an aspect of Subban's game that even his own coach Michel Therrien was reluctant to compliment him on as recently as a few weeks ago, but he wasn't shy in doing so Monday.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's playing his best hockey," Therrien said. "His focus is in the right place. Don't forget, whether you're an offensive defenseman or a stay-home defenseman, there's one thing in common -- you're a defenseman. So even if you've got the talent to bring some offense to your game, that's great. But you never want to risk putting your team in trouble with your talent, so you need to play well both ways.
"This is what P.K.'s doing right now … he's doing a fabulous job with our team. We're rewarding him and he loves the challenge, because we're putting him out there against the top players in the League game in, game out. He loves that challenge."
Subban had an assist Monday to bring his season total to 24 points in 28 games, tied for second in scoring among NHL defensemen. But it his play in his own end against top opposition that is the biggest asset of Subban's game over the past few weeks.
"This is the challenge that we've given him, and it's not a coincidence that we've had success and picked up wins," Therrien said. "His focus is there, and he's certainly one of the best defensemen right now."
Bernier and Michael Ryder scored for the Devils (11-12-5), who saw their two-game win streak end despite keeping their opponent to fewer than 20 shots on goal in a third straight.
"When you talk about the Canadiens around the League, you talk about speed," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said. "We saw it more in the third period than the two first periods, but our system was set to take away their speed. It worked well. We're happy with our game; they just scored more than we did."
Devils forward Adam Henrique (lower-body injury) did not come out for the third period after playing the final shift of the second.
Brodeur made 14 saves. In the third period, he denied Brendan Gallagher on a point-blank chance near the midway point and Max Pacioretty on a shorthanded breakaway with approximately six minutes remaining to keep the game at 3-2.
"We didn't make many mistakes. But the ones that we made, we paid the price for them," Brodeur said. "I thought our effort wasn't the reason why we didn't come up with a win. It was just a matter of putting the puck in the net at the right time."
Rene Bourque had a goal and an assist, Pacioretty scored his eighth goal in seven games, and David Desharnais had two assists for the Canadiens (16-9-3).
His two points gave Desharnais eight in his past seven games after getting one assist in his first 19 games this season.
"Everyone has always doubted me, so that wasn't the problem. It's when you start doubting yourself that it becomes a problem," Desharnais said "It's about having fun on the ice and playing hockey, not being afraid to make mistakes. When you're afraid of making mistakes you're not on the puck as much, you're not in the play; you sit back a lot instead of being more aggressive."
The Devils opened the scoring at 11:13 of the first period when a slow shot from the point by Anton Volchenkov was tipped in front of Price by Bernier for his third goal of the season.
New Jersey did a good job from that point onward of limiting Montreal's chances, with Brodeur seeing little action in the first two periods. Yet the Canadiens entered the second intermission with a 2-1 lead on two opportunistic goals.
Bourque scored with a quick shot to the short side off a nifty feed from Desharnais at 8:49 of the second period for his sixth of the season. It was the Canadiens' eighth shot on goal, and they wouldn't get another until Pacioretty scored a power-play goal on a one-timer off an Andrei Markov feed at 16:49.
After the Brunner chance went to a video review, Ryder scored 39 seconds later on a laser from the top of the faceoff circle for his sixth goal of the season, but first in 12 games and second in 18, at 4:42 of the third to tie the game 2-2.
Galchenyuk settled it just under five minutes later with his seventh goal of the season, making amends for his lack of discipline two nights earlier when he took an offensive zone penalty while up 4-0 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, leading to him being benched for the third period.
He found a perfect way to rectify it Monday.
"Whatever happened happened, I put it behind me after the game," Galchenyuk said. "But I was definitely excited about this game, I wanted to play good and I'm happy I got that goal."