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Devils extend winning streak by topping Canadiens

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

break.

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

(28-16-4).

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

Kevin Weekes.

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.

Parise is the lone Devil headed to Montreal for Sunday's

All-Star Game.

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.

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