By Joe Rizzo
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
NEWARK, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The New Jersey Devils are in a
position that seemed unattainable when Martin Brodeur went down
with an injury back in November - first place at the All-Star
Defensemen Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin each recorded a goal and
an assist as the Devils extended their winning streak to five
games with a 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on
Wednesday, completing their unlikely rise to the top of the
Atlantic Division standings at the midway point of the season.
All-Star Zach Parise and Patrik Elias also scored a goal and set
up another while Travis Zajac added a tally for the Devils
(29-15-3), who ended the first half of the season atop the
division - one point ahead of the idle New York Rangers
Blue-liner Josh Gorges and Matt D'Agostini scored and Carey
Price made 29 saves in his first start since December 30 for the
Canadiens, who have lost two straight.
Price, who is slated to start for the Eastern Conference in
Sunday's All-Star Game at the Bell Centre, stopped nine of 10
shots in relief during Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Atlanta
Thrashers. It was his first appearance since suffering an ankle
sprain just over two weeks ago.
Brodeur injured his elbow in a 6-1 victory over the Thrashers on
November 1 and has not played since, paving the way for Scott
Clemmensen to take over the starting goaltending duties ahead of
Despite entering the season with eight career wins, the
31-year-old Clemmensen has been a mainstay in net, posting a
19-9-1 record. He finished with 26 saves in this one.
Clemmensen kept Montreal off the scoreboard in the first period
by stopping nine shots, and turned aside 12 more in the second
as Martin, Zajac and Oduya staked New Jersey to a 3-1 lead by
the end of the session.
Martin committed the first mistake of the game with a
cross-checking penalty but immediately made up for it when he
beat Price between the pads on a breakaway with 8:08 left in the
first for his fourth goal of the season. John Madden stole the
puck and Elias sprung the defenseman on the clean break down the
center of the ice moments after Martin exited the penalty box.
The Devils doubled their lead at 6:18 of the second, when Zajac
scored his 15th goal of the season, tapping in a rebound from
the doorstep after Price stopped his deflection of a shot by
Parise is the lone Devil headed to Montreal for Sunday's
Montreal halved the deficit with 6:04 left in the middle period,
three seconds after a power play expired. Gorges broke a
25-game scoreless drought, putting a loose rebound into the open
top of the net from in front.
Gorges had not scored since November 24, netting just a single
goal in the first 184 games of his career before that.
The Devils restored the two-goal bulge with 1:40 left in the
second, when Oduya took a feed from Martin and blasted a slap
shot from the left point through traffic and past the glove of
Price. It was his first goal since December 19th, which also
marked Martin's last multi-point effort.
The Canadiens got their captain, center Saku Koivu, back into
the lineup after a 17-game absence due to a high ankle sprain.