EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Even Patrik Elias is surprised at how quickly the goals and points have come.
“I felt good,” said Elias, who had an assist in his season debut two nights earlier. “To be honest, I’ve surprised myself with how I played the last two games. The first one was harder for me. I just didn’t feel as good as I did today.”
The Devils struggled to score this season without Elias, who contracted the illness while playing in Europe during the NHL lockout last year.
“It was impressive,” Gomez said of Elias. “That’s as good as it gets. It’s like he hasn’t missed a beat. If anything, he’s gotten stronger. It was fun to see.”
Elias sparked the Devils to a 5-2 lead that Montreal could not overcome.
“There is certainly an element of confidence that he brings to their side,” said Canadiens coach Claude Julien. “He certainly makes that one line become very dominant. That’s what they were tonight.”
Elias and Gomez each had a goal and an assist in the opening period as the Devils took a 3-2 lead.
After Koivu opened the scoring just 11 seconds into the game, Elias tied it with a shot into the high slot to beat Jose Theodore at 1:03. Kozlov got his first goal in 15 games at 14:15, and Gomez—who had five goals and five assists in his previous four games—extended New Jersey’s lead to 3-1 with a power-play score at 15:55.
Higgins, Montreal’s first-round draft pick from Yale, pulled the Canadiens to within one at 17:41.
Elias got his second goal at 7:44 of the second, and Rafalski made it 5-2 just past the midpoint of the period.
Montreal cut that lead to 5-4 in the third as Ryder rifled a shot under the crossbar at 4:07 and Kostitsyn scored on a wraparound at 5:45.
“It showed that our guys aren’t going to quit and that they kept battling,” Julien said. “I have to give our players credit for the way they battled in the third period.”
Elias missed out on a hat trick when his shot went wide of the empty Montreal net in the closing seconds.
Montreal forwards Mike Ribeiro and Pierre Dagenais were healthy scratches for a second straight game. … Former captain Scott Stevens was a surprise visitor at New Jersey’s practice on Wednesday. Stevens, who retired before training camp, will serve as an unofficial adviser and assistant coach. Stevens denied interest in the Devils’ coaching job currently being filled by CEO and general manager Lou Lamoriello. … Devils RW Alexander Mogilny cleared waivers Thursday.