NEWARK, N.J. -- The Montreal Canadiens will deal with the nerves and excitement that accompany the type of edge-of-your-seat hockey they played in the third period and overtime Wednesday night, as long as the wins keep on coming.
The Canadiens picked up two wins against the New Jersey Devils in the past three nights despite not feeling like they played even remotely close to their best.
David Desharnais scored the tying goal in the final minute of regulation and the winner in the shootout to give Montreal a 4-3 victory in a wild game at Prudential Center that featured five goals in the third period, including three in the final four minutes. Lars Eller also scored late in the third period and in the shootout for Montreal, and goalie Peter Budaj made a pad save on Patrik Elias to end it.
The Canadiens beat New Jersey, 3-2, at Bell Centre on Monday despite being outshot 30-17. They have won three straight and are 7-0-1 in their past eight games and 9-1-2 since losing 4-1 to the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 7. The three goals by the Devils snapped Montreal's streak of 11 straight games in which it allowed two goals or fewer.
Montreal can move into first place in the Atlantic Division with a regulation win against the Boston Bruins at home on Thursday.
"It wasn't our prettiest win, but these are the points that are huge," Canadiens captain Brian Gionta said. "We did a good job Monday night and [Wednesday] of maybe stealing points that we probably didn't deserve at times."
Devils rookie Reid Boucher, who made his NHL debut, scored the lone goal in the shootout for New Jersey. It was the Devils' first shootout goal of the season; they were previously 0-for-14. However, Travis Zajac and Elias came up empty against Budaj to drop New Jersey's record to 0-5 in games decided by the shootout. The Canadiens improved to 2-3 in shootout games.
"We had four forwards [on the ice] in the last 30 seconds in overtime to try to avoid the shootout, but that didn't work," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer, whose club has lost seven straight in the shootout dating back to last season.
DeBoer was particularly disappointed for his team.
"I thought we deserved two points in probably both of the games," he said. "We come out with one out of four, which obviously isn't good enough for the standings."
The Devils grabbed a 2-1 lead midway through the third period Wednesday on goals from Andrei Loktionov and Michael Ryder that were separated by 5:31. DeBoer had put together a line of Loktionov with Ryder and Boucher to start the third after the Devils went scoreless on 19 shots against Budaj through 40 minutes.
Until Loktionov scored, the lone goal in the game belonged to Gionta, who beat Devils goalie Cory Schneider with a redirection goal off the rush with 9:24 to play in the first period.
However, the Devils couldn't hold onto the lead. Eller cashed in on his own rebound to tie the game with 3:50 to play.
The entertainment, though, was only getting started.
Elias took advantage of P.K. Subban's giveaway deep in the Canadiens' defensive zone to beat Budaj for an unassisted goal that gave New Jersey a 3-2 lead with 1:06 remaining.
"I was like, 'Man, this is crazy that we're actually going to lose this game,' " said Budaj, who made 31 saves. "But that shows you that you never know in hockey."
With Budaj racing to the bench for the extra skater, a turnover by the Devils in their own end led to Gionta's one-timer from inside the right point that Desharnais deflected past Schneider (27 saves) for the game-tying goal with 35.6 seconds left.
The play went under review to see if Desharnais deflected it with a high stick, but replays concluded that his stick was below the crossbar.
"I took the shot so I knew it was a low shot," Gionta said. "It wasn't rising high. We knew it was good."
Desharnais also had no doubt the goal would stand.
"I was sure," he said. "I tipped one earlier this year a little higher than that and it counted. It was not even close."
DeBoer said the Devils needed to have better composure with the puck in their own end in order to preserve the lead.
"We just made a mistake with the puck," he said. "One of our players [Elias] got knocked down so he was out of the play. It was one of those perfect storms and they get a tip. Those are going to happen during the season. It's disappointing, but I thought we dug pretty deep for the circumstances."
Not as deep as the Canadiens, who hope to keep their mojo going with goalie Carey Price back in net Thursday in a rivalry game against the Bruins.
"We've played good hockey," Desharnais said. "Sometimes it's not our best hockey, but we find ways to win. Confidence is up right now. Everybody is playing well. Everybody is doing their job. We're having fun. It's great."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl