MONTREAL — New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career short-handed goal.
Hall scored the winner in the third period, a short-handed breakaway, as New Jersey came from behind to beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 on Sunday to remain in the thick of the playoff race.
As time expired on a Devils too-many-men penalty, which saw the Canadiens play 52 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey, Hall emerged from the penalty box, took a pass from Travis Zajac and beat Carey Price blocker side at 15:53 of the third.
"I’m not much of a short-handed threat but it’s nice to get one there," said Hall, who extended his point streak to eight games. "Two minutes feeling shame and trying to think about what you’re going to do when you get out, and then you get a breakaway chance like that after a great kill by our guys."
The goal was Hall’s fourth in his last three games and 37th on the season. The 26-year-old has set career highs in goals and points (89) this season.
"You’re always thinking this is the time I’m going to get a breakaway out of the box," said Hall. "Usually you go in for a defensive zone shift and you’re hemmed in for a while. Just a great kill by our 5-on-3 group."
The victory gave the Devils (42-28-9), which have not qualified for the playoffs since 2012, a seven-point lead over the Florida Panthers for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida has two games in hand.
"We’re excited about it but it’s about our game," said Devils coach John Hynes. "You can’t get too wrapped up in those situations. We need to make sure that our focus level is our game, and where we’re going, and making sure we’re ready to continue to play."
Down 1-0 going into the third, Nico Hischier tied things up 26 seconds into the period. With his back to the goal, Hischier got the blade of his stick on a shot from Sami Vatanen and deflected the puck past Price.
Hischier, the only Devils player to dress for all 79 games this year, nearly gave the visitors the lead on two occasions in the third. The 2017 first-overall draft pick was stopped by Price on a breakaway before hitting the post a minute later.
"Every single guy in here wanted this win," said Hischier. "A huge two points. At the end we just found a way. That’s all that matters at the end of the season, to win games."
Keith Kinkaid, making his sixth consecutive start, stopped 25-of-26 shots.
Daniel Carr scored a first-period goal for the 28th-place Canadiens (28-39-12), who have already been eliminated from playoff contention.
With the Habs on a fast break on the power play in the first period, Carr took a pass from Artturi Lehkonen in the slot and fired a slap shot, glove side on Kinkaid, in the top corner of the net at 19:51.
Playing his 556th game with Montreal, Price tied Jacques Plante for most games by a goaltender in team history. He made 30 saves in defeat.
"It was a good performance from this team," said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. "Price was very good. We battled hard and did some good things. It was a very physical game. It’s unfortunate because we played a good game but still found a way to lose."
Both teams were playing the second game of a back-to-back series. Montreal lost 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday while New Jersey beat the New York Islanders 4-3.
The Canadiens finished 4-8-2 this season in the second game of a back-to-back.
Notes: Kerby Rychel, 23, recalled from the AHL’s Laval Rocket on Friday, made his Montreal Canadiens debut. â€¦ There was a moment of silence before the game for former Montreal Expos star Rusty Staub, who passed away Thursday.