NEWARK, N.J. - Jaroslav Halak and the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils at their own game by combining sharp goaltending and timely goals.
Halak made 31 saves, and Mathieu Darche had the go-ahead tally and an assist as the Canadiens ended a three-game losing streak with a 3-1 win on Friday night.
Usually in this series, Martin Brodeur makes the key stops and the Devils come through with clutch goals. Brodeur didn't play poorly, stopping 21 shots in his 28th straight start, but he dropped to 36-16-5 against his hometown Canadiens. New Jersey had won six straight from Montreal.
Halak was the goalie star on this night as he beat Brodeur and the Devils for the first time in his career (1-2-1).
"It's great to win a game, especially against the Devils," Halak said. "We need two points to get back into playoff position. We did a great job after they scored the first goal. We didn't give up, and stuck to the game plan."
Benoit Pouliot and Michael Cammalleri also scored for Montreal, which had yielded 14 goals during its skid. The Canadiens gave up some quality chances, but Halak turned all but one aside.
Zach Parise scored for the Atlantic Division-leading Devils, who have lost four of five.
The Devils have scored only 12 goals in their last eight games, and their power play has run dry. New Jersey was 0 for 2 with the advantage and has failed on 23 consecutive chances.
"I'm not sure we tested Halak too much," Parise said. "He made some good saves, but I still think we could have made it a little harder for him."
The line of Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Travis Zajac had all the good scoring chances for the Devils. The trio combined for 16 shots, half the Devils total, with Langenbrunner having a game-high eight.
New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire is looking for someone else to chip in.
"It's an issue right now," he said. "Right now, we have one line that is scoring. We have to find somebody else that will join this little group."
Parise opened the scoring with a breakaway goal at 5:16 of the first period. Langenbrunner, deep in his own zone, spotted Parise sprinting toward the neutral zone. Langenbrunner threaded a pass through the Montreal defence, sending Parise in alone to beat Halak with a backhander for his team-leading 21st goal.
That was all New Jersey got.
The Parise-Langenbrunner duo almost connected again on a 2-on-1 break into the Montreal zone. Halak kept the deficit at one, making the stop on Langenbrunner.
That save loomed large later in the period when Pouliot tied it at 16:10. The sequence started with defenceman Andrei Markov slipping in from the point to test Brodeur with a hard shot from the left circle. Brodeur made the save, but Montreal controlled the puck. Former Devils centre Scott Gomez set up the goal with a pass to Pouliot, who was left unchecked in the slot.
Pouliot, acquired from Minnesota on Nov. 23, has nine goals in 12 games.
Darche put Montreal ahead 2-1 at 4:35 of the second period. Darche, recalled from Hamilton of the AHL on Tuesday, deflected in Brian Gionta's shot from just inside the blue-line.
The Devils came out strong to start the third period and almost scored the tying goal on the opening shift. Halak was sharp, denying Langenbrunner's backhanded attempt.
"I thought Jaro was solid," Cammalleri said. "He made a flurry of saves in the third that were very timely, especially the one Grade A chance Langenbrunner got. Jaro stood up and made a big save."
Cammalleri stretched the Canadiens' lead to 3-1 at 11:53 with his team-high 24th goal off a nice setup by Markov. Darche earned the second assist.
NOTES: The Devils announced that RW Ilkka Pikkarainen cleared waivers. ... New Jersey placed C Rod Pelley on the injured list (lower body injury). Ben Walter, son of former NHL player Ryan Walter, was recalled from Albany (AHL) to replace him. ... Montreal released enforcer Georges Laraque on Thursday. ... Gionta faced the Devils for the first time in New Jersey since leaving the team last summer as a free agent. ... Devils rookie D Mark Fraser earned a decisive decision over Matt D'Agostini in a fight at 2:05 of the third period.