MONTREAL – It was classic New Jersey checking hockey and it was good enough to earn the Devils two points against the Montreal Canadiens.
Zach Parise scored on a power play 31 seconds into overtime to give the Devils a hard-fought 2-1 NHL victory over the Canadiens on Saturday night.
Montreal dominated the first period and got the lead on a goal by rookie Matt D’Agostini, but the Devils outworked them the rest of the way and got the tying goal from Jamie Langenbrunner in the second frame.
It was a win that pleased New Jersey coach Brent Sutter.
“The biggest thing I want to see out of the group is that, no matter what the score is, we want to play a certain way,” said Sutter. “We stayed with our game.
“We knew they’d have a quick start. We weathered that early and then we got to playing.”
It was a second overtime win in a row for the Devils (14-8-2), who edged the Flyers in Philadelphia 3-2 Thursday night. New Jersey has won seven of its last eight games, despite the absence of injured star goaltender Martin Brodeur.
Montreal (15-6-5) ended a three-game home winning streak and is now 3-0-1 on its seven-game homestand. It continues Tuesday night against Calgary.
The Canadiens, who had the NHL’s best power play the last two seasons, were 0-for-5 with the man advantage and are now 5-for-60 in their last 14 games.
“Someone has to step up,” said coach Guy Carbonneau.
None moreso than veteran winger Alex Kovalev, last year’s team scoring leader who has gone 16 games without a goal.
And it was Kovalev who was called for tripping Johnny Oduya with 28 seconds left in regulation time, a foul that led to Parise’s game-winner.
It didn’t help Montreal that, at the time, top defenceman Andrei Markov was off for treatment of a cut lip and two lost teeth after a Parise deflection shot up and got him on the mouth 12:08 into the third period.
Carbonneau was not amused.
“Every penalty is tough,” he said. “The only good ones are when you save a goal.
“Especially at that time of the game, when they had just called one against them. You know they’ll try to even it up.”
It was the first time since Feb. 1, 1997 that Brodeur, who is out for up to four months after elbow surgery, was not in goal for New Jersey in a game against the Canadiens. But Montreal struggled just as much to beat the man called up from the minors to replace him, Scott Clemmensen.
Clemmensen gave up some monster rebounds, but it was when he dropped Andrei Markov’s soft point shot that Montreal got the first goal at 15:35 as D’Agostini was on the doorstep to slam in his third goal in four games since he was called up from AHL Hamilton.
“It just went off my fingertips,” said Clemmensen, who made his ninth straight start. “I saw it all the way.
“That’s one I’d like to have back, but I’m sure Carey would like his goal back too.”
That would be Montreal goalie Carey Price, the one most responsible for his team earning a point.
Langenbrunner tipped the puck past Markov and elected to shoot on the resulting two-on-one. His long blast trickled between Price’s pads for his fourth of the season 4:05 into the second frame.
Price then made a smart glove save on a blast from directly in front by Patrick Elias.
The Devils outshot Montreal 11-4 in the third frame, but Price was solid and the game went into overtime.
Parise was alone to Price’s right and had an open net to fire in his 15th of the season in OT.
“I’m not trying to replace Marty, especially here in his home town,” Clemmensen said of Brodeur. “It’s tough to play here because they’re a good team and they feed off the energy of the crowd.”
Canadiens assistant coach Doug Jarvis was back behind the bench after taking time off to be with his ailing father.
Notes – Montreal made no changes, so Sergei Kostitsyn, Guillaume Latendresse and Ryan O’Byrne sat out. . . Injured defenceman Mike Komisarek was behind the bench for a fourth consecutive game. As Montreal won the first three, coach Guy Carbonneau considers him a good luck charm. Carbonneau added Komisarek may like coaching but “I don’t think he wants to be paid like a coach.” . . . Devils centre Bobby Holik returned from a broken finger in his right hand suffered on Oct. 18. The 36-year-old Holik is curious to see if his former linemate Claude Lemieux succeeds in his comeback attempt at 43. When asked if the intense Lemieux compares with NHL bad boy Sean Avery, Holik said: “They should not be mentioned in the same sentence, ever. And Sean Avery shouldn’t be mentioned, period.”