Martin Brodeur had a rare off-night on Tuesday, giving up three or more goals for just the third time in his last 17 starts.
newjerseydevils.com (March 11) – The Devils couldn't buy a goal against Carey Price.
Price posted 38 saves for his second shutout and Maxim Lapierre added a goal and an assist as the Canadiens dumped the Devils 4-0 at the Bell Centre on Tuesday night.
New Jersey suffered its ninth shutout of the season – and second in its last six games – to slip one point behind Montreal for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Martin Brodeur made 29 saves in his 41st consecutive start against the Habs, and fell to 34-15-5 all-time against his hometown team.
Brodeur had allowed only one goal in each of his last three starts, and gave up three or more tallies for just the third time in his last 17 appearances.
The Devils (40-24-6) dropped their third straight to the Canadiens to close out the season series with a mark of 1-3. The club slipped to second place in the conference, but held a one-point lead over idle Pittsburgh for first in the Atlantic Division.
New Jersey next visits Minnesota on Thursday, and concludes its four-game road trip in Colorado Saturday afternoon.
On Tuesday, New Jersey ran into a goaltender clearly embracing the role of the No. 1. Price is 5-2 since the trading-deadline departure of Cristobal Huet, including two wins against the Devils.
Price allowed just one goal on 70 shots in those appearances against the Devils, having stopped 31 of 32 in a 2-1 win over New Jersey on March 1.
With the Devils looking for the all-important first goal of the game on the road, it was instead Bryan Smolinski who drew first blood.
Smolinski's sixth of the season came on a wrist shot from outside the right circle that beat Brodeur shortside over his left shoulder at 4:51. The veteran forward had not scored in 18 games since tallying twice in the Habs' 4-3 win over the Devils on Jan. 24.
The Devils missed a prime chance to get even during Andrei Kostitsyn's four-minute double-minor for high-sticking. But New Jersey failed to solve Price, despite putting 20 shots on goal in the period. Saku Koivu and Sergei Kostitsyn combined on a nifty passing play to put the Canadiens ahead by a pair in the final two minutes of the frame. Kostitsyn's cross-ice feed to Koivu set up the captain's 15th of the season from the left circle at 18:28.
New Jersey nearly connected with the man advantage with under a minute to go. Patrik Elias fired a slap pass toward Zach Parise in the slot, but Price got his right pad down to deny Parise's redirection with 24 seconds remaining.
The Devils carried the play for stretches of the second period, outshooting the Canadiens 13-4. Yet they had nothing to show for that effort when Montreal pulled away to a three-goal lead.
Jamie Langenbrunner was taken down by Habs defenseman Andrei Markov in front of Price. When no penalty came, Montreal headed the other way.
Sergei Kostitsyn and Lapierre quickly came together on 2-on-1 against Andy Greene, resulting in a Lapierre tap-in for his seventh of the season at 14:20.
Michael Ryder shoveled in a backhander for his 13th of the season to round out the scoring at 17:39 of the third. His tally capped a period that saw the Devils manage just five shots to Montreal's 15.
NJD NOTES Tuesday marked the first time since 1988-89 that the Devils lost three games of a season series to the Canadiens (0-3)... Brodeur has just three regulation losses in his last 15 starts... Paul Martin (body soreness) and Colin White (upper body) were out of the lineup... Rod Pelley and Vitaly Vishnevski were scratches.
1 - 0 MTL
2 - 0 MTL
3 - 0 MTL
4 - 0 MTL
Hi stick - double minor