Brodeur slams the door on former Devil Brian Gionta.
The model of consistency for more than a decade, the Devils are headed back to the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season.
They officially punched their ticket to the 2010 postseason with Saturday’s 4-2 win over the host Montreal Canadiens. Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner scored on the power play and Ilya Kovalchuk added two assists as the Devils snapped a four-game winless skid on the road (0-3-1).
Dainius Zubrus’s marker with 4:41 left in the second period held up as the game-winner. Devils special teams were the difference, going 2-for-3 with the man advantage and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Jersey’s Team took leads of 2-0 and 3-1, only to see the Canadiens close to within one both times. For a second straight game, the Devils had to protect a 3-2 lead late in regulation. They did so successfully this time, as Brian Rolston scored into the empty net with 9.6 to go in regulation. His 19th goal of the season was also his 700th NHL point.
Martin Brodeur made 25 saves for his League-leading 41st victory of the season. The Montreal native improved to 38-16-5 against his hometown team and needs two more wins to reach 600 for his career.
The Devils (44-25-5) moved back atop the Atlantic Division, keeping pace with Pittsburgh, who beat Philadelphia. Their streak of playoff appearances is second only to Detroit, which would reach 19 in a row with a berth this season.
“I think it’s how consistent we are, year in, year out; the commitment of players,” Brodeur told MSG’s Steve Cangialosi. “I’ve been here for a long time, a lot of guys have been in and out, but with the same attitude. For us, it starts at the top with Lou (Lamoriello) demanding for us to be the best at all times. We go out there, we try to perform. This is the first step before a Stanley Cup run is to get into the playoffs. We’ve accomplished that now.”
Brodeur made several strong saves in the game. With the Devils ahead, 3-2, Brodeur stopped ex-Devil Brian Gionta’s point-blank chance on a power play with 0.3 seconds left in the second. He was sharp again under pressure early in the third. A Devils miscue along the boards led to Tomas Plekanec’s chance alone in front, but Brodeur was up to the challenge at 3:03 of the final frame.
Elias and Kovalchuk continued their recent hot streaks. The goal gave Elias six points (2g-4a) in the last three games, while Kovalchuk has two goals, five assists for seven points over the same span.
The Devils finished 3-1-0 in the season series with Montreal and cooled the red-hot Canadiens, who have won eight of 13 since the Olympic break.
“We played so much against him in the past, we know how dominant he is and how dangerous he is,” Brodeur said of Kovalchuk. “You always have to put special attention on him, and (we know) how teams have to worry about him. He’s skating as good as he’s skated since he’s been with us right now. He’s creating chances, he’s drawing penalties, he’s doing a lot of different things to help this hockey club. It’s nice to see a guy of that caliber wanting to be the best. He goes out there and he shows it every night.”
Rolston notched career point No. 700 on Saturday.
With the game still scoreless in the first period, the Devils dodged a bullet when Josh Gorges missed the net on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Thirty seconds later, Elias drew first blood on a 4-on-3 power play.
Zach Parise got a swipe at a Travis Zajac rebound in front of Jaroslav Halak before the loose puck found Elias. He popped his 15th of the season into the open right side at 8:11. The Devils’ power play, which went six games without scoring, has connected five times in the last three.
Halak had 22 saves in the loss.
Langenbrunner made it 2-0 early in the second. The captain slammed home a Kovalchuk rebound with a spinning slapper from the slot for his 18th at 1:59.
Andrei Kostitsyn put the Canadiens on the board with his 15th. From the end boards, ex-Devil Scott Gomez fed Kostitsyn for a one-timer from the left hash marks at 5:15.
Zubrus restored the two-goal lead with 4:41 left in the second. He screened Halak in front, and deflected Paul Martin’s shot from the point past Halak for his eighth of the year. The primary assist gave Martin his fourth point (2g-2a) since returning to the lineup on March 17.
Montreal answered 90 seconds later, when Kostitsyn’s centering feed deflected off Plekanec’s right skate and into the net at 16:49.
Devils visit Philadelphia on Sunday. … Zajac's assist on the Elias goal was his 200th career point. … Vladimir Zharkov, in the lineup for the first time since March 7 in Edmonton, assisted on the Zubrus goal for his ninth helper of the year. … David Clarkson fought Hal Gill at 2:23 of the first period, and landed his share on the 6-7 defenseman. … Jay Pandolfo was scratched.