Devils, Canadiens on a high ahead of matchup

The second game of back-to-back sets are always challenging for NHL teams. But adrenaline should be plentiful for both teams Saturday night, when the Montreal Canadiens host the New Jersey Devils.

The Canadiens and Devils each headed to Montreal off encouraging wins Friday night. Montreal scored four unanswered goals in the second period of a 5-2 win over the host Washington Capitals while New Jersey held off the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-1.

The second-period surge came right after Canadiens left winger Jonathan Drouin was leveled by Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who seemed to leave his feet to hit Drouin in the open ice. Drouin spent the rest of the period in the concussion protocol before being cleared to return in the third.

Phil Danault snapped a scoreless tie for the Canadiens just 2:08 after Drouin exited. Montreal added three more goals within a span of a little more than eight minutes and cruised to its third straight win.

"It was good to see we came through for 'Dru,' " said Canadiens center Tomas Tatar, who scored Montreal's final goal and had three assists.

With the victory, the Canadiens snapped the Capitals' 13-game point streak (11-0-2). The loss was Washington's first in regulation since Oct. 14.

"I don't know what they're going to say," Canadiens head coach Claude Julien said afterward. "They could say it was their worst game of the month. That's up for them to decide. But all I can tell you is that we played well, we played them tight."

Tight games are nothing new for the offensively challenged Devils, who are tied for the fewest goals in the NHL (45). New Jersey has scored two or fewer goals in 10 games, including each of the last six.

But the Devils are 3-3-0 in that span thanks to goalie MacKenzie Blackwood, who made a season-high 38 saves Friday night and was also in net for 2-1 wins over the Winnipeg Jets on Nov. 5 and the Vancouver Canucks last Sunday. Blackwood made three key saves in the final 90 seconds Friday, including a stop of Evgeni Malkin with 16 seconds remaining.

"He was particularly big down the stretch," Devils head coach John Hynes said following the victory. "We don't win the game if Blackwood doesn't have the performance that he has. It's nice to see him being consistent in his game and making saves when we need them."

Blackwood made his third straight start Friday, but Hynes indicated he might go with Blackwood again even in the second game of the back-to-back set Saturday.

"If we do, it's because we think he's physically and mentally ready to play and gives us a chance to win the game," Hynes said.

Blackwood earned the win in his lone start against the Canadiens on Feb. 2, when he stopped 37 shots in the Devils' 3-2 victory.

Ex-Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid is likely to draw the start for the Canadiens after No. 1 netminder Carey Price made 26 saves Friday. Kinkaid, who hasn't played since he recorded the win by stopping 31 shots in a 5-4 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights Oct. 31, has never faced New Jersey, for whom he played his first six NHL seasons.

--Field Level Media
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