About Last Night: Primeau gets rude welcome in loss to Devils

Former Hab Tyler Toffoli scored a hat-trick and Jack Hughes had four assists in a 5-2 win for the New Jersey Devils over the Montreal Canadiens.

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Third goalie Cayden Primeau made his season debut for the Montreal Canadiens against the powerhouse New Jersey Devils at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night, and he did about as well as could be expected.

Former Hab Tyler Toffoli scored a hat trick and superstar Jack Hughes had four helpers in a 5-2 win for the Devils. Primeau didn’t show signs of rust as he made 29 saves doing yeoman’s work.

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Special teams were once again a sore spot for the Habs. The Devils went 2-4 on the power play, while Habs went 0-4 with the man advantage.

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During the game, it was announced David Savard will miss the next 6-8 weeks due to a fracture in his left hand. Gustav Lindstrom was recalled from the AHL’s Laval Rocket and made his season debut in bleu-blanc-rouge.

Justin Barron will have a chance to carve out a top-four spot on the right side of the defence with Savard out and he opened scoring for a second consecutive game. Michael Pezzetta got the play going with a turnover at the other end.

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The Devils thought they tied it up shortly after, but Habs coach Martin St. Louis challenged that there was goalie interference on the play, and he was proven right upon review. The Habs remained up 1-0. Then Primeau made a highlight reel diving save when all hope appeared lost on preventing a goal.

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Before the first period ended, the Devils tied it up for real, this time Alexander Holtz backhanded it past Primeau just as a penalty to Johnathan Kovacevic expired. It was 1-1 after one.

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It was a tighter second period with no goals for the first 18 minutes of it, but you can only give the offensive weapons on New Jersey so many opportunities. As he often did in his brief time in Montreal, Toffoli methodically got open and ripped it home from the slot to give his team a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

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The Devils got some distance on the fading Habs in the third, starting with captain Nico Hischier in the opening minute of the period on the power play.

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At 7:17 of the third, Toffoli gave New Jersey a three-goal lead with another power play marker. Once again, he managed to get himself time and space to make an uncontested snipe. He won’t miss many of those. At this point the Habs were looking pretty hopeless, down 4-1.

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The Canadiens briefly got the home crowd re-energized when Mike Matheson went end-to-end and beat Vitek Vanacek to tighten the gap to 4-2. Bobby Orr made those end-to-end rushes famous, and I certainly remember Vladimir Malakhov doing it once for the Habs. Regular Liveblog commenter Ryan Katz said Lyle Odelein scored his first goal in similar fashion at old Chicago Stadium. Anyone remember that?

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With Primeau pulled, Nick Suzuki handed the puck over to Hughes, who helped Toffoli secure his hat trick in the empty net.

The Devils will likely be in the running for beasts of the East this season. Hughes continued his torrid start with another four points against the Habs, while Toffoli looks to be the next in a long line of ex-Habs who feast on their former club.

It was a chippy affair in the Liveblog comments, more so than usual. I try not to play sheriff, but the state of the rebuild is creating certain tensions among the fanbase. This is understandable, especially when you see a young phenom like Hughes change his team’s fortunes, and the Habs aren’t there with their lottery picks. Most of the Habs were in the red, or dark blue, on Hockey Stat Cards at the end of the night.

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As for Primeau, the commenters don’t seem too rankled about the three-headed goalie situation for now. Will Primeau play enough to solidify a spot going forward, or is the team waiting for the right moment to surreptitiously slide him through waivers?

3. “Missing Dach in these moments. RHP is a fancy 4th liner.” — Arthur Chilli

2. “Well that went south fairly badly in about eight minutes of hockey.” — Joseph Barrie

1. “Can (Primeau) become a No. 1? Habs would have to commit to giving him 6/10 games or some good number of starts to find out, maybe more? We’ve not seen enough of him to really know what he’s capable of. Hard to judge him on the few starts over the past couple of seasons as he was not good but neither was the team in front of him. IMO you need to figure it out with him now, he’s 24 and you risk making him a career AHLer if you don’t give him a legit shot.” — Kelly Morgan

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