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Canadiens get an assist from defenseman in first game

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Jarred Tinordi didn't know what to expect with his first NHL game Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils, but the 21-year-old Montreal Canadiens defenseman and 2010 first-round draft pick never really experienced the nervous rookie jitters.

"I felt pretty comfortable out there," said the 6-foot-6 Tinordi, who got an assist on Tomas Plekanic's goal that lifted the Canadiens to a 2-1 victory over the Devils on Saturday night at the Prudential Center.

"I think the nervousness and the butterflies were gone after the first couple of shifts. I tried not to think about the way I was playing."

The win enabled the Canadiens (19-5-4) to maintain first place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Devils (13-10-6) fell out of a tie for fifth place with Ottawa, which defeated Buffalo earlier in the day in overtime. It was Montreal's fifth straight win and sixth in the last seven games.

With the score tied 1-1 in the third period, Tinordi, who was recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League on Thursday, collected the puck after a steal, then sent it toward the net, where Plekanic got a stick on it to deflect it past Devils goaltender Johan Hedberg for the winner.

Plekanic scored his 12th goal of the season on the winning play.

After the Canadiens dumped the puck into the Devils' zone, Hedberg went to push the puck out of the zone, but it went to defenseman Adam Larsson, who failed to clear the puck. Plekanic made the steal, then went to the goal and got the deflection off Tinordi's shot for the winner at 6:49 of the third period.

"I knew we scored on the play," said Tinordi, the son of former Dallas Stars captain Mark Tinordi. "I didn't realize I got an assist. The boys were pretty happy for me. I was just shooting it to get it on net."

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien was overjoyed with the rookie's debut.

"What a start for the kid," Therrien said. "We're all pleased with the way he played the puck at net. It looked routine out there for him. He showed a lot of poise for his age and played very solid. He wasn't nervous. He saw more ice time because you can see him become more comfortable. He made the right decisions."

Hedberg bemoaned the fact that he went to play the puck on the winner.

"He got enough of it to get it by me," said Hedberg, who made 20 saves. "I never had time to react. It's coming at my gut, he got his stick on it and it's in.

"We make that play 20 times a game and sometimes the puck doesn't want to go your way, it came back to them and boom-boom, it's in the net. It was one of those games that come to down to a goal like that and we weren't fortunate enough to get it."

Therrien was also pleased with the play of goalkeeper Carey Price, who made 32 saves to secure his 15th win of the season in 22 games.

"He was phenomenal out there," Therrien said of Price. "He was calm, collected and in good position all night, a real trooper."

Price credited his teammates for getting the win.

"They put a little bit of a full-court press on us, but our guys battled hard all night," Price said. "We're working hard every night, trying to keep things simple. I think that's the style of play we have to have. We have good teamwork and that's what's working for us.

"I think our team is excellent in coming back after I make a save, collapsing on everything I leave out there, cleaning up the trash. We're sticking to the game plan and that makes it a lot easier."

The Devils had a good chance to tie the score once more with seven minutes left, but David Clarkson's shot from point-blank range hit the pad of Price. He also made a fine save on Patrik Elias' wrist shot with 1:24 left in regulation, after Hedberg left the ice to give the Devils an extra attacker.

"I got fortunate because it was by me," Price said. "Sometimes you get lucky. I also got lucky on Clarkson's shot. I didn't even see it, but I got a leg on it."

Plekanic saved the day, making a clutch defensive play with less than a minute left, killing off New Jersey's final offensive rush.

Hedberg made 20 saves in net for the Devils.

Therrien said he's pleased that the Canadiens have a better road record (10-2-2) than at home (9-3-2).

"We just want to make sure we play the same way, both home and on the road," Therrien said. "It takes a lot of pride to win on the road, especially here. We're just paying attention to detail."

NOTES: Before the game, the Devils honored long-time goaltending coach Jacques Caron, who was the goalie coach on all three of the Devils' Stanley Cup championships. ... Caron has spent 21 years with the Devils organization and coached legendary Martin Brodeur, who remains out of action with a back injury. ... The Devils scratched center Andrei Loktionov, who has an undisclosed injury that he suffered in the Devils' 2-1 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night. ... Defenseman Mark Fayne was a healthy scratch for the Devils for the fourth straight game. Coach Peter DeBoer has been alternating his defensemen to keep them fresh. ... Rookie forward Stefan Matteau played for the Devils after being a healthy scratch for the last three games. ... Montreal scratched forward Michael Ryder, the team's leading scorer with 23 points. Ryder has a lower body injury. ... Harri Pesonen also made his NHL debut for New Jersey. ... The game was a showdown between the Gionta brothers, namely Brian, a former member of the Devils, and Stephen, currently on the Devils.
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