Toffoli scores hat trick, Hughes has four assists as Devils beat Canadiens
MONTREAL — Tyler Toffoli didn’t score in his first return to Montreal after the Canadiens traded him. In his second visit, he made up for it by scoring three.
Toffoli’s hat trick powered the New Jersey Devils to a 5-2 NHL win over the Canadiens on Tuesday night at Bell Centre.
The 31-year-old winger played parts of two seasons with the Canadiens, including 28 goals in 52 games before Montreal made the Stanley Cup final in 2020-21. He said the chances kept coming on Tuesday after breaking the deadlock.
"It was nice to get the first one, having not scored since coming (back)," said Toffoli. "Once that happened, it felt like I was just getting a ton of opportunities and very fortunate for sure."
Toffoli’s third goal was into an empty net, but it might’ve been the hardest to come by since he missed two point-blank chances at the open-cage before burying his third chance.
"I was pissed,” he said of missing his first couple chances at a hat trick. “I really wanted it … your job out there is obviously to prevent them from scoring, but if you get the opportunity to score and put the game away, that's what you're out there to do."
Hughes, who entered the evening tied for third in league scoring, has 14 points in five games.
The Devils went 2-for-4 on their power play, which is clicking at a league-best 44 per cent rate to start the season.
“It’s something we’ve worked hard on, I think our guys have matured,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff. “It’s really come together, both groups. We know there will be a few games it doesn’t click, but you gotta make hay when the sun is shining.”
Canadiens goaltender Cayden Primeau made 29 saves in his first start of the season. Montreal was one of five teams to start the year with three netminders on the roster.
But the biggest story for Montreal was a mid-game announcement that veteran defenceman David Savard would be out six to eight weeks with a fractured left hand.
Savard left Monday’s win in Buffalo midway through the third period after putting his body on the line and blocking multiple shots, one of which knocked off his skate blade, on the penalty kill.
“He’s a guy that’s tough to replace, you can’t buy that type of experience,” said head coach Martin St. Louis. “We’ll have to do it by committee.”
In that respect, St. Louis saw some things during the game that will make him feel better about the significant loss to his defence corps.
"It's so fresh and new, the league keeps going game after game right now and I'm not really sure exactly how we're going to fill that and address it,” he said. “But I saw some really good things from (Barron) tonight and (Gustav) Lindstrom on the right side, so we'll take it as it comes."
Tied 1-1 late in the second period, Toffoli received a cross-ice pass from Hughes before burying a wrist shot past Primeau.
Hischier doubled New Jersey’s lead with a power-play goal 34 seconds into the third period before Toffoli added another.
Matheson got one back for Montreal, which pulled the goalie on the power play with nine minutes left, after sliding the puck under Vanecek’s pads to complete an end-to-end rush, reminding some reporters of Bobby Orr.
“Not live,” said the 29-year-old Matheson when asked if he’d ever seen Orr play. “It doesn’t always go that way, but it’s nice when it does.”
Montreal started with a lead as Barron opened the scoring at 5:49 of the first period when he banged home a rebound. The 21-year-old defenceman has two goals in three games this season.
Primeau bailed out his young defence corps on a number of occasions throughout the evening. Midway through the first he made a sensational cross-crease save where he dove and stretched his arms out to deny New Jersey forward Ondrej Palat.
The 24-year-old Primeau has played 22 games over the last five seasons with the Canadiens, but hasn’t managed to break into the NHL full-time.
"I thought he played well, I thought he gave us a chance," said St. Louis. "Their offence was spinning us around, and he hasn't played a lot, so I thought he played a good game."
New Jersey: Hosts the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
Montreal: Hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2023.