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Habs rebound with 5-1 win at New Jersey

by Dan Rosen /

NEWARK, N.J. -- The best medicine for the Montreal Canadiens after a tough loss at home Wednesday was to get right back at it Thursday.

The New Jersey Devils offered the perfect elixir -- little resistance.

Montreal chased Devils goalie Johan Hedberg after just 98 seconds and didn't let up until it had finished off a 5-1 victory just 24 hours after blowing a two-goal lead third period en route to a 4-3 loss in overtime to Edmonton.

Carey Price made 27 saves for his League-leading 15th win of the season. The Devils, who hadn't played since Saturday, were on a three-game home winning streak before the Habs came to town.

Montreal improved to 9-1-0 in games played after a loss.

"We were ready from the start today," Canadiens forward Lars Eller said. "New Jersey wasn't."

Ex-Devil Brian Gionta scored 11 seconds into the game by shoveling in a loose puck after Hedberg fumbled a would-be save on Roman Hamrlik's slap shot from the left circle. Eller made it 2-0 only 1:27 later when he went around defenseman Mark Fayne and wrapped the puck in off Hedberg's left skate blade.

At that point Devils coach John MacLean yanked Hedberg in favor of Mike McKenna. MacLean said he didn't fault Hedberg; he was simply trying to change the momentum of the game by making the goalie switch.

It didn't work. Nothing MacLean tried Thursday seemed to work.

"They were very prepared to play," MacLean said of the Habs. "We weren't."

He had no answer when he was asked why that was.

"I don't know. You'd have to ask a lot of them," he responded. "We knew Montreal was coming off an OT loss (after) giving up a lead, and they were ready. Our guys for some reason thought they would have time to get into it. They never got into it, and when you play against a good hockey club like Montreal, they embarrass you."

The Devils appeared to find some rhythm late in the first period when they applied pressure on the Habs' blue line and got off a flurry of shots on Price, but they couldn't find the back of the net.

It was really their best chance to get back in the game, because the Canadiens started pouring it on in the second -- they weren't about to give away another two-goal lead.

"We weren't too happy about the game (Wednesday) night and we wanted to come in here and have a great start," Price said. "That's exactly what we did, and after we got that two-goal lead we didn't want to give it away so we came back in the second period and jumped on them."

Tom Pyatt made it 3-0 by scoring his first goal of the season 2:30 into the second. Pyatt had to put his celebration on hold with the play under review, but replays clearly showed that his shot from the slot found the netting inside the right post.

Scott Gomez became the second former Devil to score against his old mates when he roofed a rebound from the low slot for a power-play goal 8:37 into the second. It was Gomez's second goal in as many nights after he scored only 2 goals in the first 24 games.

Benoit Pouliot's snap shot from the left side only 80 seconds later sailed over McKenna's low-hanging catching glove and into the short side, giving the Habs a 5-0 lead and bringing out plenty of boo birds inside Prudential Center.

"You would hope that they would continue with a little desperation, but it didn't happen," MacLean said.

MacLean even tried to put the slumping Ilya Kovalchuk with fourth-line grinder Adam Mair in the third period. Kovalchuk hasn't scored since Nov. 12 against Edmonton, a span of eight straight games. He has a lone assist over the span.

"I could have benched nine guys, but you can't so you have to try and see if somebody will get going," MacLean said. "(Kovalchuk) is probably one of nine that I could have (benched)."

The Devils had a chance to get back in the game late in the second period with a 5-on-3 for the full two minutes. Eller and Hamrlik were issued tripping minors at 17:06, but New Jersey, despite holding the puck in the zone for nearly the entire two minutes, did not force Price to make any difficult saves or even go post-to-post.

They got four shots on goal during the two-man advantage -- all from the outside.

"We did an excellent job of killing that," Price said. "We just tried to keep them to the outside and that's exactly what we did. Kudos to our penalty killers, who have been doing a really good job this year. They kept things to the outside so the shots they had were point shots and shots from the top of the circle."

Jason Arnott scored 8:18 into the third period on a nice set-up by Elias, but there was little reason to even raise his arms in celebration.

The celebrating belonged to the guys in the visiting locker room.

"We all knew it wasn't good enough (Wednesday)…but we also quickly forgot about it," Eller said. "We've been good at coming up again after a loss and we really showed that again, the strong team that we have."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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