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Brodeur blanks Habs for 112th NHL shutout

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils know better than to think Thursday night's 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens will immediately right a ship that's been taking on water since the start of the season.

But for now, it feels pretty good to see a number 2 in the win column.

"We have a big weekend ahead of us, so we wanted to get a good start to our three games in four nights," Brodeur said after his 29-save performance extended his League-record career total to 112 shutouts. "But we have to build on it. You don't start a season the way we did and think one game is going to fix everything. We have to keep working the way we did tonight."

Brodeur entered the game having allowed 7 goals on 57 shots in registering two straight losses, but his second shutout of the season came against his favorite victim as it was the ninth of his career against Montreal.

He improved his career record at Bell Centre to 16-8-1 and his overall record against his hometown team to 39-16-5.

"There's no secret to it, I guess I just like playing here," Brodeur said. "But I won't complain, especially how the season started for us and for me personally. We needed a good performance here."

Zach Parise scored his first since opening night and Jason Arnott and Matt Taormina also scored for the Devils (2-4-1), who extended their winning streak in Montreal to five games dating back to March 11, 2008.

"Our defense did a good job of blocking out in front of the net, there wasn't too many rebounds lying around there, and our forwards did a good job of getting in shot lanes," Parise said. "It was little things like that we weren't doing really well, and tonight we did. Hopefully we learn from that because we came away with a win."

Carey Price did not have his greatest night in goal for the Canadiens (3-2-1), allowing three goals on only 20 shots. But he didn't get much help from his teammates as Montreal did not generate too many quality chances on the Devils net, and the few times they did Brodeur got the better of them.

"Tonight I thought (the Devils) were on the puck and we just didn't find ways to get the puck behind Brodeur," Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said.

The usual sellout crowd of 21,273 was buzzing early in the game, but the Devils took the energy right out of the building on Parise's goal 4:20 into the first period on a quick turnover behind the Canadiens net that he banked in off Price.

By the time it was 3-0 with about five minutes to play in regulation, a steady stream of those fans began heading for the exits.

In typical New Jersey fashion, the Devils slowed the game down from that point onward and kept the crowd out of it, essentially playing a perfect road game at a time when they desperately needed it.

"We talked before the game about how this team always feeds off the crowd and starts well," Parise said. "We got an early lead and played smart hockey after that, so we didn't give them much to cheer about. That's always a good thing when you come in here."

The win snapped New Jersey's two-game losing streak and took a load of pressure off a team expected to be among the elite of the Eastern Conference but which began the game at the bottom of the standings.

It also came after the Devils had three days of practice, allowing coach John MacLean to shuffle his lines and give his team a more balanced look with Ilya Kovalchuk on the second line.

It worked.

"I think the guys in here were aware of the situation and they know how to play," MacLean said of the impact of those practices. "Sometimes they just need little reminders."

Parise said the extra benefit of the time off was that the team's key forwards were able to recover from two games where the Devils could only dress three lines because of salary cap constraints.

"I think the most important thing was that we got some rest," Parise said. "We played the two games there with three lines, it was nice to get that rest and get a clear mind and start feeling good about ourselves again."

For Montreal, meanwhile, the woes on what was the League's second-best power play last year continued as the Canadiens went 0-for-3 and are now 1-for-20 on the season, including an 0-for-11 mark at home.

"That's a work in progress," Martin said. "We need to be better. We created a couple of chances on the power play, but we still need to be better as far as our execution."

Montreal's best chance to beat Brodeur probably came in the third period during one of those power-play chances, when Brodeur was caught out of his net and the puck came to captain Brian Gionta beside the net. Except his one-timer try toward the empty net sailed high.

Arnott's goal at 14:59 of the second period -- where he fanned on his shot from the slot but the puck deflected off Dustin Boyd and through Price's legs -- was his team-leading third of the season and 100th in a Devils uniform.

Taormina scored on a floater from the blue line at 3:38 of the third for his second of the season, matching Kovalchuk and Parise for second on the team in that category.

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