Pascal Leclaire called the Ottawa Senators' victory over the New Jersey Devils "a good win," though either of the two struggling teams would have gladly settled for a bad or ugly victory, too.

Milan Michalek and Jarkko Ruutu scored 2 minutes, 16 seconds apart midway through the second period, spoiling Martin Brodeur's return to visiting New Jersey's lineup in Ottawa's 3-2 victory last night.

Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist and Leclaire stopped 29 shots for the Senators.

"Both teams are fighting hard for points right now," Leclaire said. "We're both not in a situation we expected to be in the standings so it was a pretty hard-fought game and it's good for us."

Brodeur made 26 saves in his first appearance in eight games following a right elbow injury as the Devils' losing streak stretched to four.

"It's more of the same for us," Brodeur said. "We could cry all about it all we want but we're the ones playing the game and we put ourselves in the situation that we need breaks all the time. If we played well right from the get-go it would have been a lot different."

The NHL's career victories and shutouts leader, Brodeur also drew his 35th career assist on Patrik Elias' power-play goal 4:46 into the second period that tied it the game at 1-1.

"It's not looking good," New Jersey center Jason Arnott said. "We're getting further and further away from that No. 8 spot [the last playoff spot]. It's getting near impossible. If we don't put a string of wins together here by Christmastime we're going to find ourselves going home early."

New Jersey had a possible tying goal by David Clarkson disallowed with 3:36 remaining in the third period. The puck went in off Clarkson's left skate and referee Brad Watson immediately waved it off, a call that was upheld by a video review.

In other games:

* At Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist and Jimmy Howard made 36 saves to help the Red Wings beat the Montreal Canadiens, 4-2, in a matchup between Original Six rivals.

Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall and Patrick Eaves also scored for Detroit, while Travis Moen and Benoit Pouliot scored for Montreal.

* At Atlanta, Milan Hejduk gave Colorado the lead 42 seconds into the third period, Craig Anderson protected the advantage with 24 saves and the Avalanche beat the Thrashers, 4-2, ending a five-game road losing streak. The Avalanche ended the Thrashers' home winning streak at six, denying the Thrashers matching the longest home streak in franchise history.

* At Dallas, Brad Richards converted in the second round of a shootout and James Neal scored in regulation as the Dallas Stars beat the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1. Jiri Tlusty scored for the Hurricanes in regulation.

* At Edmonton, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark scored in a shootout and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped both Tampa Bay attempts in the tiebreaker to give the Oilers their fifth victory in six games, 4-3, over the Lightning.


* Mario Lemieux and a team of former Pittsburgh Penguins stars will take on Peter Bondra and past Washington Capitals in an alumni game the day before the current teams play in the NHL's Jan. 1 Winter Classic showcase in Pittsburgh.

Lemieux will be joined by fellow Hall of Famers Paul Coffey, Ron Francis and Bryan Trottier. The game will be played at Heinz Field.

* The Glendale (Ariz.) City Council scheduled a vote Tuesday on a new lease for the Phoenix Coyotes, a long-awaited move that could clear the way for sale of the team by the NHL to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer.