Devils 3, Canadiens 2
MONTREAL (AP)—The New Jersey Devils solidified their playoff positioning with a familiar formula as Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez provided opportunistic offense and Martin Brodeur took care of the rest.
Gionta extended his points streak to 10 games with his 43rd goal and Gomez scored twice—his 29th and 30th—and New Jersey took sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.
“We’ve been playing well as of late but it’s basically a playoff game against them and we came out and played well,” Gionta said.
Brodeur made 40 saves for the Devils, who won their sixth in a row and moved two points clear of seventh-place Montreal.
“He kept us in the game,” said Gionta, who assisted on Gomez’s first goal which put New Jersey up 2-0 midway through the second. “Obviously Marty is Marty, he always keeps us in the game. There’s not much else you can say about him, we’re just lucky to have him back there.”
The Canadiens, who outshot the Devils 42-29, ended an eight-game winning streak, their longest in over 13 years.
“They play a very patient game,” Montreal captain Saku Koivu said. “They wait for the other team to make a mistake—we made two mistakes, they got two breakaways and they scored the goals. It’s pretty simple when you look at it that way.”
Gomez, who had an assist and finished with three points, has seven points in two games, including a goal and three assists in a 6-4 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
“He carries the play. He makes things happen and obviously when he’s at the top of his game, the whole team’s going,” Gionta said.
Mike Ribeiro ruined Brodeur’s shutout bid when he got credit for his 16th goal 11:20 into the third, 1:07 after Gomez scored his second of the game to put the Devils up 3-0. Chris Higgins scored a power-play goal at 19:47 to draw Montreal within one.
“It just shows what kind of team they are,” Gomez said. “They didn’t give up, they played to the end and it was great for the fans tonight. They got a great hockey game.”
Devils defenseman Colin White was called for tripping with 6.4 seconds remaining and the Bell Centre crowd was on its feet as Brodeur made a save off Alex Kovalev with 3.8 seconds left.
“I guess we can say that we gave everything tonight and that we were determined to play a good game, and it just didn’t happen,” said Huet, who contributed six straight wins to the Canadiens’ streak.
Gionta and Gomez, the Devils’ top two scorers, combined for five points. Gionta opened the scoring 17:16 in, beating Cristobal Huet with a shot from the slot. The Rochester, N.Y., native assisted on Gomez’s 29th goal 10:15 into the second for his team-leading 78th point.
“It’s a tough team to play when you’re down 3-0 or 2-0, and that’s when I think they’re at their best,” Koivu said. “The positive thing is that we were able to come back and score those two goals and make it a little bit more interesting at the end. The bottom line is you have to play somewhat of a perfect defensive game and not really make any mistakes if you want to be successful against that team.”
Gomez drew his 46th assist on Gionta’s goal and has 76 points.
The Canadiens lost center Steve Begin to a knee injury late in the first on a play that resulted in a pair of minor penalties being called against New Jersey.
With a delayed penalty for hooking already signaled against Sergei Brylin, defenseman Ken Klee put the Devils two men down for 2:00 when he slashed Begin in front of the net at 18:05. The Montreal center fell awkwardly and lay in front of the Devils net in obvious pain. He was helped off the ice and did not return.
The Canadiens had a 5-on-3 advantage for the final 1:55 of the period, but managed just two shots on Brodeur.
The Devils’ goalie got some help earlier in the period as well when White made a lunging stab to knock the puck away from Kovalev, who was driving in on Brodeur on a clear breakaway in the first just moments before New Jersey center Patrik Elias was sent off for tripping at 13:31.
Gionta has the most goals by a Devils’ player since Alexander Mogilny scored 43 in 2000-01. Gionta is three goals behind Pat Verbeek’s franchise record of 46 set in 1987-88. … Brodeur has 80 career shutouts. … The Canadiens last won eight in a row from Oct. 24 to Nov. 11, 1992. They had a team-record 12-game winning streak in 1967-68. … Montreal has sold out each of its 38 home games.