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Devils knock off Canadiens

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Even though the New Jersey Devils were eliminated from NHL playoff contention on Sunday, it didn't mean that they would roll over and die in the final three games of the shortened regular season.

"Without a doubt, the guys in this room have a tremendous amount of pride," said veteran forward Steve Sullivan, who had a goal and an assist in the Devils' 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at the Prudential Center.

"We want to win every game. Of course, we were trying to get into the playoffs and we knew we were in a dogfight to get in. It would have been nice. But since we didn't, we're not going to quit."

The Devils played the role of spoiler, turning to veteran standouts and longtime teammates Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias to do so.

Brodeur made 19 saves for his 669th career victory and Elias scored the 375th goal of his career, leading the Devils to a their third win in their last four games.

"We knew that they were struggling a little bit, so we wanted to keep them honest," Brodeur said. "We played hard and with a lot of intensity."

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. The loss, the fifth in the last six games for the reeling Canadiens, dropped their record to 27-14-5, but they remained in a tie with Boston with 59 points for first place in the Northeast Division standings.

Canadiens coach Michel Therrien isn't looking at the standings.

"It's not about the standings or the result," Therrien said. "It's about how we play. We weren't focused enough tonight."

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 came at 13:23 and gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.

"It was good to have the lead," Brodeur said. "I think we all played better after we scored."

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 Sullivan were credited with assists, as Josefson stayed with the play and pushed it past Montreal goalkeeper Carey Price.

It was Josefson's first NHL goal since March 29, 2012.

"I scored a few goals in Albany, but it's not the same," Josefson said. "It was nice to get a chance to score. I just want to be out there as much as I can. I can't really think about how long it's been. I'm just glad to get one. It's a big confidence builder."

New Jersey then took a three-goal advantage when 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.

"It was a great pass from Zidlicky," Sullivan said. "I just got my stick down and gave Zidlicky a chance to shoot it towards me. The deflection went in. We definitely were clicking again."

With the Canadiens down 3-0, Therrien knew his team was in trouble.

"It's the worst recipe to have when you're playing these guys because they don't give you a lot of shots and don't give you a lot of chances to score," Therrien said. "We were on our heels from the start."

The Canadiens then sliced the lead to 3-1 on Max Pacioretty's power-play goal, his 14th goal 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.

But that's where the game remained after a scoreless third period.

"I thought we got better as the game went on," Therrien said. "But we have to do a better job on the penalty kill. Our defensemen need to be more aggressive and get after the loose pucks. We'll turn it around. We still have time to put our game together."

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 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 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 for the Devils: They are 14-1-4 when they score the first goal of the game this season. ... The 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.
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