Brian Rolston set up Elias' go-ahead goal with 2:36 left in regulation.
Martin Brodeur didn't set the shutout record against his hometown team on Wednesday, but he did match another impressive milestone.
With his start in the Devils' 2-1 win over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, Brodeur made his 1,029th career appearance and tied Patrick Roy's all-time mark.
Patrik Elias secured the victory by breaking a 1-1 tie with 2:36 left in regulation to lift New Jersey to its ninth win in the last 11 games. Ilkka Pikkarainen's first NHL goal tied the contest at 1-1 in the second period after Travis Moen had scored shorthanded in the first.
Brodeur passed Roy's mark for minutes played (60,235) in Boston on Nov. 27, and will overtake Roy for the most games played by a goalie with his next appearance. He remains tied with Terry Sawchuk for most career shutouts (103).
"It's durability," Brodeur said. "That's what playing a lot of games is. It's being durable, it's being successful, because if you're not then the coach doesn't put you in there. I'm definitely happy it's passed. We'll get the next game and get it over with; try to get another one out of the way and just play hockey."
Wednesday's contest wasn't pretty, but the Devils were happy to take the two points from a conference foe.
"That was kind of boring a bit," Brodeur said after making 17 saves. "But it's a big win."
It was also a gratifying one for the Devils, who acknowledged that they weren't at their best. They squandered four power-play chances in the first period and finished 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
But Elias' seventh of the season, and third in the last two games, sent the Devils' faithful home happy. He tipped a Brian Rolston pass on net before backhanding his own rebound past Carey Price at 17:24 of the final frame. Price finished with 25 saves.
"Just a great play by Patty," Rolston said. "He skated hard to the net and he gets the tip and then the rebound. It was a sluggish game tonight, wasn't our best game, but we seemed to find a way to win and we found a way to win tonight even though we weren't great."
Elias extended his points streak to five games (4g-2a), while Rolston stretched his to three (1g-3a). Together, they continue to produce with youngster Vladimir Zharkov, who assisted on Elias' 300th career goal on Saturday.
"It's not just me and Brian," Elias said. "I think that Zharkov is going a lot to make it fun and successful as a line. We're playing well as a unit, all three guys, and you saw that. He makes another good play on that goal. He's working hard and making smart little decisions there. With Brian we're just having fun, a lot of communication and just playing."
The Devils (23-8-1, 47pts) tied Pittsburgh in points atop the Atlantic Division, and sit one point behind Washington for first place in the Eastern Conference. They're 3-1 on their five-game homestand which concludes Friday against Ottawa.
Lemaire didn't like everything he saw, but was happy with the result.
"You're always a little bit frustrated when your team's not doing well," the coach said. "But when the outcome is a win, it's great. You'll take it, and only because we got the win."
Said Lemaire: "I don't think they were better than we were. We were not good, but they weren't better.
Montreal led 1-0 after 20 minutes on Moen's shorthanded tally. The Devils' power play went 0-for-4 in the first period, including 1:02 of a 5-on-3, and recorded only two shots.
Moen converted after Jamie Langenbrunner lost the puck at the left point while trying to pass cross-ice to Andy Greene. Moen then raced up ice with Tomas Plekanec on a 2-on-1 against Greene, before slipping a backhander between Brodeur's pads at 12:23.
"We did some good things in the first period, we just made too many mistakes, especially on the power play," Langenbrunner said. "Obviously my turnover cost us a goal and we were sloppy in general. We know we can't do that. The power play can't take away momentum that we were gaining."
Langenbrunner said the puck bounced up on him.
"When I went to pass it, the puck wasn't there," he said. "It's one of those things. The puck was bouncing a lot tonight. It happened a few times for us and to them, obviously. Unfortunately, that one ended up in our net."
Pikkarainen's first career goal got the Devils on the board late in the second. He fired a high wrist shot from the right circle that Price knocked out of the air with his catching glove. The puck caromed off the left post and sat in front of the goal line before Price knocked it in with the heel of his right skate at 16:25.
"I'm happy," Pikkarainen said. "That was a lucky one, but I don't care how it goes in. I'm just really happy. The goalie helped me a little bit there."
Lemaire called it a lucky goal.
"But you know what? That's what we needed," Lemaire said.
The Devils have allowed just two shorthanded goals this season. They improved to 9-5-1 when allowing the first goal, while the Canadiens lost in regulation for only the third time when scoring first (11-3-1). … Travis Zajac (10) and Rob Niedermayer (12) combined to win 22 faceoffs, as New Jersey took the overall edge in the game, 36-23. … Brodeur matched Roy's wins record of 551 in Montreal last March 14. … Elias holds the franchise record for game-winning goals (68). … The Devils will host their annual coat drive before Friday's meeting with Ottawa. … Devils and Habs meet again Jan. 9 and March 27 in Montreal, and Jan. 22 in New Jersey
• Lemaire said the team got the start it wanted, but lost its way on the early power plays.
"As I mentioned to the guys, power plays are great when you take advantage of it," Lemaire said. "They can destroy the whole team when you don't score, especially when you go 5-on-3 and then guys make the wrong pass, and the wrong shot and don't score. They get frustrated. If they can't get that off their minds, it's tough to play hockey after that. I thought the power play turned things around for us."
The coach might not have seen Elias' winner coming, but he had a hunch something was about to happen with three minutes left.
"I can't say yes," he said, "but I had a little feeling. I was thinking about all the games that we didn't play as well as we could and came back at the end to score a goal that gave us the win. I said, 'It would be nice to do this tonight.' The game kept going on, and then all of a sudden you get that goal. I was really surprised."
1 - 0 MTL
1 - 1 Tie