NEWARK, N.J. - Already eliminated from NHL playoff contention, the New Jersey Devils played the role of spoiler, turning to veteran standouts and long-time teammates Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias to do so.
Brodeur made 19 saves in goal for his 669th career victory and Elias scored the 375th goal of his career, leading the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.
The Devils, who went to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, were eliminated after losing to the New York Rangers on Sunday. But they came out inspired against the Canadiens, winning for the third time in the last four games _ on the heels of a 10-game losing streak that knocked the Devils out of the NHL Playoffs for only the third time in the last 20 seasons.
The Devils improved to 18-18-10 overall with the win. The loss, the fifth in the last six games for the reeling Canadiens, dropped their record to 27-14-5 and two points behind Boston for first place in the Northeast Division standings.
Steve Sullivan, who is in his second stint with the Devils some 16 years after first playing for the club, had a goal and an assist. Marek Zidlicky had two assists.
The Devils drew first blood on a power-play opportunity, when Canadiens forward Rene Bourque was whistled for interference. Just 17 seconds after Bourque went off, the Devils made their first rush, with Marek Zidlicky moving the puck forward, passing to Travis Zajac, who pushed it ahead for Elias, who scored his 14th goal of the season and the 375th of his stellar NHL career, all with New Jersey. The goal coming at 13:23 gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.
They pushed the lead to 2-0 when Jacob Josefson, just recently recalled from Albany of the AHL, scored his first goal of the season off a mad scramble in front. Dainius Zubrus and Steve Sullivan were credited with assists, as Josefson stayed with the play and pushed it past Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price.
New Jersey then took a three-goal advantage, when Steve Sullivan scored on a deflection of a Zidlicky shot in the early stages of the second period. Sullivan's score, another power-play opportunity, came after Brandon Prust was called for interference.
The Canadiens then sliced the lead to 3-1 on Max Pacioretty's power-play goal, his 14th of the season.
Montreal got a huge break in the closing seconds of the second period, when Alex Galchenyuk made a pretty play behind the goal, stealing the puck from two New Jersey defenders and making a backhand pass in front to the wide-open Eller, who slapped it past a prone Brodeur with just 14 seconds left in the period, slicing the lead to 3-2.
NOTES: Devils coach Peter DeBoer decided to give slumping center Adam Henrique the night off. Henrique, one of the Devils' leading scorers early on, had scored just one goal in the last 14 games. "I think he needs to take a step back for a night and just watch," DeBoer said. "His confidence isn't where it needs to be. So, that's the solution I've come up with." ... Henrique understood the demotion. "I'm obviously not getting on the score sheet," Henrique said. "I still feel like I'm there battling and getting some opportunities, but I'll watch the game tonight and take it as positive thing where I'll come back and play well." ... DeBoer also said that captain Bryce Salvador, battling a bruised wrist, would not play again this season. ... Veteran Patrik Elias, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, reiterated that he would like to return to the Devils next season. Elias, the franchise's all-time leader in goals scored (375), assists (553) and points (927) said that there has been no negotiation with the team to date about next season. "It could very well be my last three games," Elias said. "It's a possibility. Nothing is going to change for me. I'll just wait and see. I don't know what's going to happen. Sometimes you're hoping for something and it doesn't happen. I understand all sides of it -- the business side of it, the ownership issues, and what the team has to do -- and if it works out great. If it doesn't, life goes on. Unfortunately, it's a part of hockey." ... One positive sign about the Devils: They are 14-1-4 when they score the first goal of the game this season. ... Canadiens still have a chance to overtake Boston in the Northeast Division race and with that comes the No. 2 seed in the playoffs that begin next week.