DEVILS (43-25-5) at CANADIENS (37-30-8)
New Jersey 5-3-2; Montreal 7-1-2
It's the fourth and final game for the two clubs this season. The Devils won the first two matchups, 2-1 on Dec. 16 and 2-1 in overtime on Jan. 9. The Canadiens gained a 3-1 victory in their most recent encounter on Jan. 22. Mathieu Darche
scored the go-ahead goal, his first with Montreal.
While the Devils lost to the Rangers on Thursday and missed their chance to clinch a playoff berth, the point they gained in the shootout moved them back into the Atlantic Division lead. The Canadiens, meanwhile, have moved into sixth place with their win over the Panthers.
New Jersey had the lead three times over the course of Thursday night's game against the Rangers, but its rival also equaled the score three times. The Blueshirts' Chris Drury tied the game for the last time at 3-3 with 17 seconds left in the third period, sending the game into overtime and eventually a shootout, where the Devils would be denied all three times by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Ilya Kovalchuk
, Patrik Elias
and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for New Jersey in regulation.
"I can't point to any breakdown," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "They pulled the goalie and sent the puck behind the net. They had three guys in front and our center was up too high. We shouldn't have even been there in the end because we had so many more chances. We felt good about the game but their goalie was great and that was difference. If we play like this, I'm happy."
After relinquishing a 2-0 lead in the last two minutes of the third period on Wednesday to the Sabres and falling in the shootout, the Habs bounced back with a 4-1 win over the Panthers on Thursday. Brian Gionta
and linemate Benoit Pouliot scored in the first period and the Cats scored late in the third to make it a one-goal game. But this time, Montreal built on its lead, rather than squandering it, and added empty-net goals from Gionta and Thomas Plekanec. Jaroslav Halak wasn't heavily taxed, but finished the night with 23 saves.
"We all knew what happened last night against Buffalo and we didn't want it to happen again," said Plekanec, whose empty netter was his 100th career goal.
"As soon as they scored the one goal I think we started to play better," Halak said. "That was great to see the guys respond on a goal and we had some scoring chances and it was good to see that we didn't give up."
For the Devils, Elias has had a goal and four assists in his last two games. … For the Canadiens, Gionta has had two two-goal games in his last four.
The Devils have no injuries to report, while Canadiens defenseman Paul Mara (left shoulder surgery) is out for the remainder of the season.
New Jersey has lost its last three shootouts. Brodeur, who leads the League in career shootout wins with 34, was in between the pipes for two of those losses.
"I've learned over the years that any time you play the Devils, you have to really look at them and be ready. And no matter who's coaching them, they always have that system where they're sticky and tough and they have a lot of depth. They're the kind of team that will bring out the best in you. We've had some good games against them this year and tomorrow will be a good test for our team." -- Montreal coach Jacques Martin