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Devils beat Canadiens to lock up playoff berth

by Brian Compton

Make it 13 years in a row for the New Jersey Devils.

One of the most successful franchises of the past two decades will once again be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Devils clinched a playoff berth on Saturday night with a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner had power-play goals and Brian Rolston notched his 700th career point for the Devils when he scored an empty-net goal at 19:50 of the third period. Martin Brodeur made 25 saves for his 41st win of the season.

The victory was also New Jersey's fourth straight against Montreal and moved the Devils back into a first-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who defeated Philadelphia earlier Saturday.

''I've been here for all 13 of them and I've seen a lot of guys come and go, but the attitude is the same,'' Brodeur said. ''It starts from our boss upstairs with (Devils GM) Lou (Lamoriello) and it goes and trickles down to the guy that plays the least amount of minutes. We've always had that attitude that the first step is making the playoffs and after that, well, we try to go for bigger things.''

Andrei Kostitsyn had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Plekanec also scored for the Canadiens, who are sixth in the East with 82 points -- two ahead of the Flyers and Boston Bruins.

Jaroslav Halak made 22 saves and Mike Cammalleri had two assists for his first points in three games since returning from a broken leg that forced him to miss17 games. Montreal went 0-for-4 on the power play.

"The difference in the game was special teams,'' Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. ''They scored two on the power play and we didn't score any.''

Rolston wasn't the only one to achieve a milestone for the Devils. Travis Zajac notched his 200th NHL point when he assisted on Elias' power-play goal at 8:11 of the first period, which came during a 4-on-3 situation. It was his 15th goal of the season.

"That first goal deflated us a little bit … it got us back in a shell,'' Habs forward Brian Gionta said. ''For about 10 or 12 minutes, at least, we sat back too much and gave them too much respect.''

Langenbrunner doubled New Jersey's lead with another power-play goal just 1:59 into the second. The Devils' captain spun around and ripped a slap shot past Halak after a drive from Ilya Kovalchuk failed to reach the net.

Kostitsyn cut the deficit in half for Montreal when he took a pass from Scott Gomez and ripped a shot past Brodeur at 5:15. It was Kostitsyn's 15th goal of the season. But Zubrus made it 3-1 at 15:19 when he redirected Paul Martin's shot past Halak for his eighth goal of the season.

The Canadiens quickly made it a one-goal game again, however, as Kostitsyn's centering feed went off Plekanec's right skate and past Brodeur just 90 seconds later.

But Montreal couldn't find the equalizer, and Rolston put the game away when Kovalchuk passed up the opportunity to score to feed the veteran forward for the easy tally.

''We were talking about it before the game and he was right behind me, so why not?'' said Kovalchuk, who went straight to the net after Rolston scored to pick up the puck.

''It was a very unselfish play by Kovy to drop that,'' Rolston said. ''He could have obviously shot it in himself, but I'm hoping that I would have gotten to that 700th point.''

Material from wire services was used in this report

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