NEWARK, NJ – March is coming in like a lion, and if the New Jersey Devils are on your schedule, so are they.
Martin Brodeur, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Gionta all achieved career milestones in a 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers Sunday afternoon.
Brodeur reached the 100 career shutout plateau, only the second goaltender ever to reach that mark. He was stellar Sunday, stopping 27 shots in his third game back from injury.
Brodeur now has three shutouts to go before tying Terry Sawchuk’s all-time record, and six wins away from tying Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record.
“It’s remarkable. It really is,” said Devils Coach Brent Sutter. “Marty is a special player and he’s been able to rise to the occasion.”
His teammates also rose to the occasion against the Flyers, treating the crowd to a fast start for the third game in a row.
Nearly four minutes into the game, Zach Parise found Langenbrunner in the left circle and Langenbrunner put the puck in the net for his 200th career goal.
The Devils’ offense was sparked by the defensemen moving the puck up the ice more aggressively than opponents are used to.
“Good defense is good offense, and good defense isn’t just when you’re in your own zone. Good defense is how you play in your zone but also how you forecheck and how you create opportunities in your offensive zone,” explained Sutter.
Thirty-seven seconds into the second period, Johnny Oduya rifled a shot and Brian Gionta was able to redirect the shot behind Flyers goalie Martin Biron for his 300th career point.
“Johnny made a great play getting it through to the net. It makes things a lot easier for us when the D is getting it through. Just tried to get in position and tipped it by him,” described Gionta.
Oduya, playing plus-nine hockey during the three-game homestand along with Paul Martin, was rewarded for his aggressive offensive play in the third period.
Brendan Shanahan dug the puck out of the corner and fed a wide-open David Clarkson in the middle of the ice. Clarkson saw Oduya flying up the ice and made a tape-to-tape pass, allowing Oduya to get past the last defender and fire a shot from the slot. Biron could not get to the puck in time.
Biron made 39 saves on 42 shots Sunday when every Devils player on the ice with the exception of Bryce Salvador got a shot on goal. Parise, Gionta and Langenbrunner each had five scoring attempts.
On the other end, the Devils blocked 15 shots, including five by Oduya and three by Salvador.
Brodeur only saw 27 shots, including only six in the second period.
“He does a good job stopping that first one, then it’s up to us to let him see it or not let it go through at all, and when it happens to go through he does a good job getting it to places where we can get it, and we’re trying to get the puck up and out of the zone as quick as we can,” Martin said about playing in front of Brodeur.
Despite the small amount of shots Brodeur faced, he was more challenged against Philadelphia than he had been the previous two games.
In the first period, about half way through, Brodeur found himself on the left post as the puck was being moved around to his right side. He dove over onto his right side to stop the puck, leaping off of his skates and landing hard on the ice.
At 15:42 in the first, Scottie Upshall of the Flyers tested Brodeur from the right wing, and was able to try again on the rebound, but Brodeur stopped both shots.
At 14:14 in the third period, Brodeur made a terrific save on Mike Knuble, twisting his body to entrap the puck. The Devils turned the puck over right in front of the net, and
Knuble swiped it up and put it on goal from the left post.
As the final horn sounded, the Devils soaked up the cheers of the home crowd for the last time until March 10, when they return from a road trip to face the Calgary Flames.
The Devils were 1-2 on their last road trip, getting shut out twice.
“We weren’t happy with the Southern road trip obviously, those three games we didn’t play very well. But this week we’ve been playing pretty good hockey and so we just have to carry it through,” Gionta said.
If the Devils are able to continue the current level of play, expect them to roar straight through to the playoffs.