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Darche with a pair as Habs defeat Devils 3-1

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Normally, a visit by the Montreal Canadiens to the New Jersey Devils was a large chance for a loss. This season, they took both games in Newark, closing out the season series with a 3-1 win.

The Canadiens got a pair of goals from Mathieu Darche, who is the latest in a series of wingers to find chemistry with Brian Gionta and Scott Gomez.

Darche put his team on the board by doing what Jacques Martin has been emphasizing for, well the season. With Gionta rushing up the left side, his linemate drove to the net and perfectly redirected a puck past Martin Brodeur. The assist was Gionta's 400th career NHL point.

The visiting club played a dominant 60-minute shutdown game against New Jersey, limiting them to just three shots on goal in the first period and 21 on the night. One of those shots was a penalty shot by Mattias Tedenby that bounced off the post and along the goal line. Not a single player in black, red and white recorded more than two shots on goal on the night.

Brodeur gave his team a fighting chance, making several big saves against the Canadiens. The big  highlights were a suicide save on a Tomas Plekanec rush, and a series of saves late in the second period off the stick of Mike Cammalleri.

A late second period goal by the Canadiens would have probably put it away with two defensive style coaches going head to head. But then again, an early power play goal works just the same. P.K. Subban did that just 29 seconds into the third period, with a point blast that got by a screened Brodeur.

Darche added his second goal of the night just three minutes later, set up by his two linemates, redirecting another puck from Gionta.

Canadiens goalie Carey Price, making his 70th start of the season to tie a franchise record, was denied a shutout after Ilya Kovalchuk scored with 5:59 left to play.

The win gives the Habs 91 points on the season, and a hold onto 6th place in the Eastern Conference. Last year that was more than enough than what they needed for eighth in the conference, but they're not out of the woods yet. The ninth place Carolina Hurricanes won, and the Buffalo Sabres squeezed out a point in an overtime loss to slip into seventh, four back of the Habs with two games in hand.. Only five points separate 6th and ninth.

And yes folks, the Toronto Maple Leafs are still in the running. They can't catch the Canadiens, and would need to run the gauntlet and get some serious help along the way for a shot at the last playoff spot.

The Canadiens return to Montreal to face the Chicago Blackhawks, in their last home game of the regular season, on Tuesday. They will then want to carry the same road effort they had tonight when they face the Ottawa Senators Thursday and the Leafs in Toronto Saturday to close out the regular season.

Despite a great effort under "interim" coach Jacques LeMaire, the Devils will not make the playoffs for the first time since 1996 ,and just the the third time in the last 23 seasons that they've missed the post-season. More on that from In Lou We Trust

Three Stars: 1. Mathieu Darche 2. Carey Price 3. Martin Brodeur

The Game within: Shift Charts | Head to Head | Corsi/Fenwick

Scoring Summary

   SCORERS
  First period
09:43 MTL Mathieu Darche, 11 (Brian Gionta, 16 Hal Gill, 7) (MTL: 75 11 21 52 31 76   N.J: 30 17 19 6 32 29)
  Second period
None
  Third period
00:29 MTL P.k. Subban, 13 (PP) (Tomas Plekanec, 35 Michael Cammalleri, 27) (MTL: 13 14 20 46 31 76   N.J: 30 12 26 7 34)
03:34 MTL Mathieu Darche, 12 (Brian Gionta, 17 Scott Gomez, 30) (MTL: 44 11 21 52 20 31   N.J: 30 12 26 8 34 6)
14:01 N.J Ilya Kovalchuk, 29 (Patrik Elias, 39 Dainius Zubrus, 17) (MTL: 75 32 57 31 58 76   N.J: 12 26 8 7 17 29)