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Desharnais comes up big in Habs' win over Devils

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- With the Montreal Canadiens on the ropes and less than a minute from their first regulation loss in eight games, one of the NHL's smallest players came up big.

Center David Desharnais -- all 5-foot-7 of him -- redirected a shot with 35.6 seconds remaining to tie the score, then delivered the deciding goal in a shootout as the Canadiens rallied for a 4-3 victory against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.

Desharnais, who only stands taller than the 5-foot-5 Nathan Gerbe of the Carolina Hurricanes among NHL players, had his tying goal reviewed to see if he touched it with a high stick. After a brief look in the situation room in Toronto, it was deemed a good goal.

Not that it was ever in doubt to Desharnais.

"I'm so small they have to review everything I touch, I guess," Desharnais said.

The Canadiens entered the third period with a 1-0 lead, and it looked like there wasn't going to be much offense over the final 20 minutes. But the Devils received two quick goals from forwards Andrei Lokitonov and Michael Ryder to grab a 2-1 lead, only to see Habs forward Lars Eller tie the score with 3:50 remaining.

With overtime looming, the Devils received a gift. Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban stumbled with the puck on his stick in his own zone, allowing left winger Patrik Elias to snap a quick shot past goaltender Peter Budaj to give the Devils a 3-2 advantage with 1:06 remaining.

That lead wouldn't hold, either, as Desharanais got just enough of a long shot by right winger Brian Gionta, who opened the scoring in the first period, to get the puck past Devils goaltender Cory Schneider.

Everything happened so fast that Budaj didn't see the tying goal as he skated to the bench for an extra attacker.

"They called me in and I got on the bench. As I got in the door, all of a sudden (goaltender Carey) Price is like, 'Yeah!'" Budaj said. "Oh, that's awesome. So I was pumped that we scored. I didn't see it because their guys were right there. It was a great play and the guys battled hard and didn't give up. We could've, but we didn't. It's a big two points for us."

Coupled with their 3-2 win Monday in Montreal against the Devils, the Canadiens earned a sweep in their home-and-home series with the Devils and improved to 7-0-1 in their past eight games overall. They sit one point back of the Atlantic-leading Boston Bruins and two points back of the East-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.

The loss dropped the Devils to 2-5-0 in their past seven and left them tied for third in the Metropolitan with the New York Rangers, who have played one fewer game.

Shootouts continue to vex the Devils, who are 0-5 in the game-deciding breakaway contests this season. Rookie right winger Reid Boucher opened the shootout with the Devils' first goal in 15 attempts this season, but center Travis Zajac and Elias failed to score on their attempts.

Ryder, who is 0-for-2 in shootouts this season, had no explanation for the Devils' futility in the event.

"Beats me," Ryder said. "I have no idea. We practice it and we can't manage to score those goals. It's definitely frustrating. But if you look at it, when it comes playoff time, there's no shootouts. But you'd like to get those extra points when you need them during the season."

Devils coach Peter DeBoer felt his team played well enough to earn two points in each of these games with the Canadiens and was pleased with the late push considering how busy the schedule has been recently.

"We came up with one out of four (points), which obviously isn't good enough in the standings," DeBoer said. "But for how we played six games in 10 nights, I thought we started slow. Once we got into the game halfway through the first period, we played a real good game."

NOTES: The Canadiens entered the game riding a streak of allowing two goals or fewer in 11 straight contests. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the longest single-season streak for the club since 1975-76. ... Canadiens D Francis Bouillon returned to the lineup after sitting for two games. He replaced D Douglas Murray, who sat as a healthy scratch. ... Devils LW Reid Boucher made his NHL debut. The 20-year-old had 10 goals and 18 points for the AHL's Albany Devils this season. ... The Devils placed C Ryan Carter on injured reserve, retroactive to Nov. 30, with a leg injury.
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