NEWARK, N.J. -- There's something about the Montreal Canadiens that usually brings out the best in New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
Brodeur, who entered Tuesday's game against the Canadiens with 43 wins and nine shutouts in 67 career games, added to those impressive totals behind a 19-save performance to help lead the Devils to a 3-2 victory at Prudential Center. It was Brodeur's third win in the past four starts overall.
"It's always nice to beat the Canadiens," the Montreal native said. "I got a lot of texts from people back home. They're excited about the game. Some are happy I won, and some are not really happy so it's kind of nice."
Steve Sullivan had a goal and one assist on the way to being named the game's first star as the Devils built an early 3-0 lead before the suddenly struggling Canadiens began mounting a comeback that was ultimately thwarted by Brodeur in the end.
It's the fifth loss in six games for the Canadiens since they clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth on April 11. They've allowed 28 goals in those games. Goalie Carey Price, who will need to be Montreal's best player in the playoffs, has given up 22 of those goals.
Price was pulled for an extra attacker with 56 seconds remaining in the third, but desperate Montreal could not generate a quality opportunity on Brodeur as the Devils bottled up the middle of the ice. It's certainly not the way Canadiens coach Michel Therrien envisions heading into the playoffs with just two games remaining in the regular season.
"[The Devils] are a team that doesn't give up a lot of shots," Therrien said. "They don't give up a lot of scoring chances. We were on our heels early in the game, especially in the first period. We addressed it with our defensemen … I thought they needed to be more aggressive on the puck carrier. We needed to be a lot more aggressive on the loose puck. I thought we were better as the game went on because we were more aggressive."
It didn't help that the Canadiens also allowed two power-play goals on four New Jersey opportunities in the game. The Habs have now allowed at least one power-play goal in six straight games and are 17-for-27 over that stretch.
"We're not finding ways to get the job done as we did in the beginning [on the penalty kill]," Montreal forward Lars Eller said. "That just plain and simple has to be better."
The game was the first of three road matches to close out the regular season for the Canadiens, who still have a shot at overtaking the Boston Bruins for first place in the Northeast Division. The Bruins dropped a 5-2 decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday, so both the Bruins and Canadiens have 27 wins and 59 points -- the Bruins hold the lead since they have a game in hand.
Brodeur, who made five saves in the third, was making his 16th straight start (5-7-4) for the Devils since returning to the lineup on March 21 in Carolina. His best save might have been 6:43 into the third when he denied David Desharnais off a rip from the left circle. The save prompted many of those 15,219 fans in attendance to an impromptu "Mar-ty, Mar-ty" chant.
"I think it's nice [to get the win] for our fans and important to recognize what they do for us," Brodeur said. "We have to have good efforts on home ice, for ourselves and our fans. We know we're a good team and we missed the playoffs, but we still want to compete and prove that we're playing well."
Devils wing David Clarkson reiterated Brodeur's sentiments.
"We're always going to fight back and play hard every shift," Clarkson said. "These fans have been here for us all season, and last year as well. They've supported us and I think this building has been sold out most games. So, we owe it to ourselves, our organization and our fans to play these games hard and we're going to do that."
The Devils have two games remaining in their season -- Thursday at home against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins and Saturday against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. In addition to Sullivan's second-period goal, the Devils also received first-period markers by Patrik Elias and Jacob Josefson.
Josefson's goal, which gave the Devils a 2-0 lead 17:36 into the second, was his first since last season.
"You always want to break the zero [in the goal column]," Josefson said. "It was good and a little relief to see it go in."
The Canadiens took advantage of a mixup between Brodeur and defenseman Alexander Urbom behind their own cage to pull to within 3-2 on a goal by Eller with 20.4 seconds left in the second. Urbom took a pass from Brodeur along the goal line and had his clearing attempt blocked down by Eller at the right point. Eller then dumped it right back behind the Devils cage and rookie Alex Galchenyuk battled Dainius Zubrus for the puck behind the cage before feeding a wide-open Eller in front.
Eller said the efforts just haven't been there of late.
"Forwards are not helping out the D," he said. "We're just having a hard time getting through the neutral zone. There's so many things we need to do better. I could point out probably 10 more things, but it starts with each and every individual. We have to be better."
After spotting the Devils a 3-0 lead, the Canadiens got a break when Max Pacioretty's backhand pass through the slot ricocheted off the right skate of Devils defenseman Adam Larsson and past Brodeur 6:33 into the second.
New Jersey had taken a 3-0 lead 4:36 into the middle period on a power-play goal by Sullivan, who redirected a Marek Zidlicky pass that beat Price to the stick side. Zidlicky sent the puck across the ice from the right point to Sullivan at the bottom of the left circle.
"I was showing [Zidlicky's] my stick and saw his head look up, so I had a pretty good idea it was going to be coming so I just braced for it and he hit it right on the mark," Sullivan said.
The goal came just 53 seconds after the Devils were given their man advantage when Brandon Prust was whistled for goalie interference on Brodeur.
The Devils grabbed a 2-0 edge when Josefson scored his first goal since March 29, 2012, just 2:24 left. Dainius Zubrus made the play possible when he took a pass behind the Montreal cage and fed Josefson at the right post. The 22-year-old Swede jammed a shot that went off Price's glove just inside the post.
Elias opened the scoring with a power-play goal 13:55 into the game for the Devils. Zidlicky skated the puck the length of the ice before dishing to Travis Zajac in the neutral zone. Zajac feathered a pass to Elias down the middle of the ice and Elias sent a quick shot over the blocker of Price.