MONTREAL — Torrey Mitchell scored a short-handed goal in the second period to give the Montreal Canadiens a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
Captain Max Pacioretty also scored for Montreal (23-16-3), which was playing its first home game in nearly three weeks. Mike Condon made 19 saves for the win in net.
Adam Henrique responded for the Devils (20-16-5), who got 23 saves from Cory Schneider.
Mitchell scored the winner shortly after Canadiens forward David Desharnais missed a penalty shot high and wide late in the second period.
With Devante Smith-Pelly in the penalty box for interference, Paul Byron jumped on a loose puck and stormed down the ice on a shorthanded 2-on-1 with Mitchell. Byron avoided a diving Devils defenceman with a nifty toe drag before feeding Mitchell at the side of the net for the easy tap-in at 18:27.
Montreal's eight short-handed goals ties the Ottawa Senators for the NHL lead, while five of Byron's 10 points this season have come while playing shorthanded.
The Canadiens came into Wednesday's game with 12 losses from their previous 15 games. The Habs went 2-6-0 on their eight-game holiday road trip, squandering their division lead in the process.
Montreal's special teams made the difference against New Jersey.
With the Devils playing a man down in the first, Pacioretty redirected a pass from Tomas Plekanec between Schneider's pads at 19:00. With Gallagher screening him, Schneider never saw the puck.
The Canadiens are 13-2-0 when Pacioretty scores. They're also 8-1-1 at the Bell Centre when scoring first.
Rookie Devils coach John Hynes used his challenge on the goal, arguing Gallagher had interfered with Schneider on the play. The Canadiens forward, however, was just outside the crease.
The goal was only Montreal's fourth on the power play in its last 16 games (4 for 46).
Henrique got one back for the Devils just 50 seconds into the third period, deflecting an Andy Greene shot from the point between Condon's legs.
Notes: Tomas Fleischmann was a healthy scratch for the first time this season. … Forwards Mike Cammalleri (upper body) and Patrik Elias (knee) were not in the lineup for New Jersey. ... The late Dickie Moore, who died on Dec. 19, was honoured in a pre-game ceremony. … Earlier on Wednesday, Pacioretty was awarded the Molson Cup for December.
Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press