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Devils 2, Canadiens 1 @NHL

MONTREAL (AP) -Claude Julien enjoyed his return to the Bell Centre, especially with Martin Brodeur on his team instead of on the opposite end of the ice.

Brodeur made 33 saves and Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rafalski each scored, leading the New Jersey Devils to a 2-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night.

New Jersey won for the third time in four games following a 4-4-1 start under Julien, who was fired by Montreal on Jan. 14 and had to find his way to the visitors' locker room.

"I wasn't quite sure how to get there, so it was pretty funny that way," Julien said. "I had never even bothered looking at how the visiting room was, so everything today was new for me in the Bell Centre, including the opposing bench."

Brodeur improved to 30-12-5 against Montreal with his seventh win of the season, the 453rd of his career - seven behind Florida's Ed Belfour for second on the NHL list.

"It's been an up-and-down season for us and so this was definitely a big game for Claude and it's a great gift we gave him," Brodeur said. "When he sees his team competing the way it did today, I'm sure it makes him feel pretty good."

Pandolfo scored his second of the season 12:38 in during a 4-on-4. Rafalski got his first of the season on a power play midway through the second to put the Devils up 2-0.

Chris Higgins scored his team-leading eighth goal during a power play in the second to make it 2-1.

"(Brodeur) made some beauty glove saves," Higgins said. "They play a very boring game ahead of him. They don't make too many mistakes and try to keep the shots to the outside, and he makes the saves he should make. That's why he's one of the best in the world."

Higgins injured his left ankle in the third period when he was checked by Devils defenseman Colin White.

"I kind of fell awkwardly into the boards and my skate got jammed into the boards and I hyperextended it or something, but I don't know anything right now," Higgins said. "I was able to finish the game, but it's hurting a little bit, that's for sure."

Cristobal Huet stopped 27 shots for the Canadiens, who lost in regulation for just the third time in 13 games.

Huet, who got his first shutout of the season in Thursday's 4-0 win in Carolina, made a spectacular glove save to deny Jamie Langenbrunner on a breakaway with just over 7 minutes remaining in the third.

Pandolfo opened the scoring with both teams down a man in the first as he completed a nifty passing play with a shot past Huet into an open right side.

After Brodeur made a sparkling glove save on Alex Kovalev's wrist shot during a Montreal power play 7:47 into the second, Rafalski got his first goal since April 2 to put New Jersey up by two.

The Devils defenseman backhanded a loose puck into a wide-open net at 10:52 and referee Craig Spada pointed to the net repeatedly to confirm the goal, ignoring Huet's complaints about being interfered with by Brian Gionta, who was pushed into Huet by Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet.

"I saw a guy in the crease and I just showed the ref he was there, but I saw the replay and I think he wasn't there by mistake," Huet said.

Higgins deflected Rivet's shot past Brodeur at 13:46 to draw the Canadiens within one.

Notes: Julien led Montreal to a 72-71-16 mark overall, guiding the Canadiens to the second round of the playoffs in 2004. ... Canadiens D Andrei Markov ended a four-game points streak. He had two goals and three assists during that span. ... Kovalev had to be helped off the ice late in the second after he appeared to hurt his right knee during a play along the boards. He returned for the third period.

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