New Jersey at Montreal

Habs edge Devils for first place in Eastern Conference

CBSSports.com wire reports
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MONTREAL -- Saku Koivu's preseason prediction that the Montreal Canadiens were playoff worthy doesn't seem so outrageous now.

Andrei Kostitsyn's power-play goal late in the third period helped the Montreal Canadiens edge New Jersey 2-1 on Saturday night and move past the Devils into first place in the Eastern Conference.

"It is a pleasant surprise for us and for a lot of people," Koivu said. "There were some question marks for this team because of the young players coming from the minors, but those guys have done an excellent job coming in here and wanting a big role, not being happy just to be in the lineup."

Mark Streit also scored for the Canadiens, who have won three in a row and seven of their last 10 to give them 81 points -- one more than the Devils and Ottawa Senators.

This is the first time the Canadiens have been first in the conference after the All-Star break since March 1993 - the last time Montreal won the Stanley Cup.

"We played really good hockey in the first half of the season," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau, who was the captain of the 1993 team. "But ever since Christmas, we've been playing really great hockey."

Montreal's 20-year-old rookie Carey Price made 31 saves to win his third straight start and improve to 15-9-3. Price has allowed only four goals on 92 shots during his three-game streak.

Brian Gionta scored for the Devils, who lost their third straight. It was only New Jersey's third regulation loss in 16 games.

Martin Brodeur, who made 23 saves, was especially sharp early in the third period of a 1-1 game when he robbed Montreal's Maxim Lapierre and Guillaume Latendresse within a minute of each other.

"They didn't give us much, we barely had three or four really good scoring chances on Price," Brodeur said. "We're just having problems scoring goals and creating chances of late, and it was the same thing tonight.

The Canadiens' league-leading power play connected for the 17th time in 19 games, scoring twice on six opportunities. Montreal has scored 27 goals in 92 chances during those 19 games.

With the game tied at 1 midway through the third, Devils forwards Michael Rupp and Jamie Langenbrunner were called for consecutive penalties to give Montreal a brief 5-on-3 power play.

The Canadiens were unable to capitalize on that opportunity, but while still on the man-advantage, Kostitsyn pounced on a loose puck behind the net and banked a wraparound try in off Brodeur's stick for his 20th goal of the year at 14:17 of the third.

Twenty goals isn't enough for Kostitsyn, whose parents were at the game.

"I want more," he said.

The Devils had a chance to tie it when Mike Komisarek took a hooking penalty just 17 seconds later, but Price was solid for Montreal.

Streit opened the scoring on the power play at 6:11 of the second period. Alex Kovalev collected his NHL-best 40th power-play point on the play, centering a pass for Koivu in front that was stopped by Brodeur, but Streit batted in the bouncing puck for his 12th goal.

The Devils tied it while the teams were playing 4-on-4 as Price made the initial save on Mike Mottau's shot. While he searched for the puck, Gionta came and fished it out from next to Price's blocker and put it in an open net for his 18th goal at 13:37 of the second.

It was Gionta's fifth goal in his last 10 games since snapping a 13-game goal drought.

Notes

  • Brodeur dropped to 34-14-5-0 in his career against his hometown team.
  • The Canadiens had the same lineup as in their 6-2 win Friday in Buffalo, meaning D Patrice Brisebois and wingers Tom Kostopoulos, Mathieu Dandenault and Steve Begin (groin) sat out.
  • Devils defensemen Vitaly Vishnevski, Andrew Greene and Paul Martin were healthy scratches. D Karel Rachunek was back in the lineup after sitting out the last six games.
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Habs rookie Carey Price deflects a pass at the net and goes on to win his third game in a row.  (AP)
Habs rookie Carey Price deflects a pass at the net and goes on to win his third game in a row. (AP)

Scoreboard
New Jersey (37-23-6)0101
Montreal  (36-21-9) «0112
Three Stars
A. Kostitsyn
MON


Goals: 1
Assist(s): 0
C. Price
MON


Saves: 31
Save Pct.: .969
M. Brodeur
NJ


Saves: 23
Save Pct.: .920
Scoring Summary
1ST PERIOD
None
2ND PERIOD
06:11Power Play - Mark Streit (13), Slap Shot. Assist: Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev
13:37Brian Gionta (18), Slap Shot. Assist: Mike Mottau, Colin White
3RD PERIOD
14:17Power Play - Andrei Kostitsyn (21), Slap Shot. Assist: Tomas Plekanec, Christopher Higgins
Penalty Summary
1ST PERIOD
05:40Mottau, 2 min, Tripping
2ND PERIOD
04:14Mottau, 2 min, Hooking
12:27Higgins, 2 min, Slashing
13:09Parise, 2 min, Hooking
18:20Salvador, 2 min, Holding
3RD PERIOD
10:51Rupp, 2 min, Cross-Checking
12:22Langenbrunner, 2 min, Hooking
14:34Komisarek, 2 min, Hooking
19:48Komisarek, 2 min, Roughing
19:48Elias, 2 min, Roughing
Shots On Goal
 123T
New Jersey1310932
Montreal88925
Goalies
GoalieMINSSGA
Martin Brodeur59:17232
Carey Price60:00311
Power Play Conversions
Power Play
New Jersey0-for-0
Montreal2-for-4
Game Information
Attendance - 21273
Referees - Eric Furlatt, Don Koharski
Linesmen - Derek Amell, Scott Cherrey
 
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