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The Devils made them do it

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Despite the loss, Habs stay atop Eastern Conference standings with 29 points

Saku Koivu scored and picked up an assist, bringing his point total to 25 in 20 games.

EAST RUTHERFORD - It had to happen sooner or later, but the Canadiens finally dropped their first road game of the season in regulation time. In a building that has hardly been kind to them over recent years, Claude Julien's crew suffered a 5-3 loss to Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils on Friday at Continental Airlines Arena.

The normally defensive-minded Devils (9-8-2) managed to erupt for three power-play goals in only four opportunities to snap Montreal's nine-game streak with at least one point gained in the standings.

True to their season-long pattern, the Canadiens (13-4-3) managed to dig themselves out of a 2-0 hole after the opening period. Montreal surrendered a season-high 17 shots in the frame with Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta each notching power-play markers as Jose Theodore made 15 of his 26 saves in the first period, despite being a doubtful starter with a reported slight groin pull.

Never known to go quietly, the Canadiens roared back in the middle frame with three straight goals. Tomas Plekanec got the ball rolling by capitalizing on a Brian Rafalski cough-up at the the 7:27 mark and sliding the puck past Martin Brodeur for his second goal of the season. Then, with the public address announcer still busy announcing Plekanec's goal, Richard Zednik swooped in and beat Brodeur only 42 seconds later for his sixth of the campaign.

Linemate Saku Koivu picked up an assist on Zednik's goal before putting the Canadiens up 3-2 with less than six minutes to play in the second period, notching his eighth of the season. Montreal appeared well on their way to a rare win in New Jersey after coming away with a paltry six points over their last 21 visits to the Swamp with a record of 1-16-4 dating back to 1994.

It wasn't meant to be, however, as with just under a minute and a half left before the second intermission, Viktor Kozlov evened up the score when he beat Theodore from the left faceoff circle.  Gionta gave the Devils the lead for good in the third period when he knocked in a Brian Rafalski rebound and John Madden closed the game out with an empty-netter with 24 seconds to go in the game. Brodeur stopped 28-of-31shots for his third win in four games since returning from a knee strain last week.

The Canadiens headed straight back to Montreal for their showdown with rookie phenom Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at the Bell Centre on Saturday.

NOTES: D Sheldon Souray assisted on Zednik's goal for his first career point against his former team... C Radek Bonk did not make the trip as he continues to nurse an upper leg injury... C Jan Bulis made his return to the lineup after missing four games with a left shoulder injury. ... C Maxim Lapierre was a scratch after making his NHL debut on Tuesday versus the Panthers... Claude Julien dressed seven defensemen for the seventh time this season... The Canadiens power-play was 0-for-3... Montreal ended a streak of seven straight one-goal games.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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