MONTREAL – The New Jersey Devils didn’t need Martin Brodeur for all 60 minutes to beat the Montreal Canadiens.
Travis Zajac had a goal and two assists while Johan Hedberg made 15 saves in relief of Brodeur as the New Jersey Devils beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 on Sunday.
Brodeur, who was credited with the win, made 10 saves in the first period but didn’t come out to start the second because of a bruised knee. He was seen flexing his leg during a stoppage late in the first period.
“I saw Marty was in discomfort so I knew I might see some action and I had a little time to prepare,”said Hedberg.“I thought we played a tremendous game, guys were coming back really hard.”
It was Brodeur’s decision to leave the game.
“My leg caught up under me in the first, and when I got up I felt a twinge,” said Brodeur.
After picking up his fifth shutout of the season Saturday against the New York Rangers, Carey Price let in three goals on 29 shots in the loss.
Ilya Kovalchuk scored a pair to increase his team lead to 17 and Danius Zubrus also found the back of the net for the Devils.
“I think all the team started playing better, that’s what’s happening,”said Kovalchuk.“Everyone’s getting points, everyone’s in the pluses so that’s how you play a team sport.”
P.K. Subban had Montreal’s (30-19-5) lone goal of the game.
New Jersey (19-30-4) scored first just over a minute into the game when Hal Gill turned over the puck behind the net to Zubrus who beat Price with a backhand.
Kovalchuk added to the lead at 4:04 of the period deflecting a Colin White point shot past Price who had no chance on the play.
The Devils went up by three at 3:16 of the second period. Zajac picked up a rebound from an Anton Volchenkov point shot and slipped it in.
“It’s nice that we are getting points, but we’ve been playing for awhile now I think,”said Zajac about his line.“The more and more we play together, the better it’s going to get. We’re just starting to feel more comfortable together.”
Montreal got on the board shortly after that goal when Subban fired a point shot that hit Kovalchuk’s stick and handcuffed Hedberg.
Kovalchuk padded New Jersey’s lead with a minute 21 seconds left on the clock with an empty net goal.
It was New Jersey’s sixth straight victory at the Bell Centre and the Devils have beaten the Canadiens in eight of the last 10 overall.
Montreal captain Brian Gionta gave the Devils full credit for their recent turn around.
“They are playing much better and there’s no secret about that,”said Gionta.“They got their confidence back and things are going well for them.”
The Canadiens now hit the road to take on the Boston Bruins on Wednesday before coming back to Montreal for another three-game homestand. The Bruins are two points ahead of Montreal for first place in the Northeast Division.
“Our only goal was a lucky one, it hit a stick and went in,”said Subban.“We have a big game coming up, so we have to just get ready for that.”
New Jersey will take on the Carolina Hurricanes at home on Tuesday.
“The next 10 days we have three games against them (Carolina), that’ll be a key stretch for us,”said Kovalchuk.“If we want to make a push, we have to pick up points in those games.
Notes: Montreal’s James Wisniewski missed his second straight game with flu-like symptoms. … Mark Fraser and Adam Mair didn’t dress for New Jersey.