NEWARK, NJ – Cutting down the net seemed very appropriate.
Martin Brodeur took home the net he guarded during the third period of his 552nd win, the win that pushed him past Patrick Roy to first on the all-time victories list.
The Devils beat the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night, 3-2, in a special night for New Jersey’s net minder.
“It was an exciting night, I’m definitely happy its over, it’s been a little chaotic for me the last few days but it was an awesome night. It was a great reception from the fans… it was pretty cool. I thought it was pretty cool in Montreal and this topped it,” said Brodeur after the game, referring to tying Roy’s record Saturday.
Brodeur leapt off the ice as the final buzzer sounded, and began dismantling the net with help moments later. As his teammates finished the equipment surgery, Brodeur took a lap around the rink, waving to the delirious Prudential Center crowd.
“Jamie (Langenbrunner) came over and said, ‘Go take a lap, we’ll cut it down. The fans deserve it,'” explained Brodeur. “I’ve done it with the Stanley Cup on top of my head, and that was a team thing, but that was really a personal thing. It was really cool.”
Chants of “Marty! Marty!” began early in the night, and with each of his 30 saves the crowd’s approval grew louder.
His teammates showed their dedication to the pursuit of the record early in the contest. Langenbrunner took a backhand pass in the slot from Zach Parise 38 seconds into the game and fired a shot past Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
At six minutes, just after a power play ended, Paul Martin sent a pass to Parise deep in the right corner. Parise found Travis Zajac set up on the left side of the crease, and Zajac put the puck behind Khabibulin.
Another Devil hit a milestone in the second period. With Johnny Oduya in the penalty box for closing his hand on the puck, Patrick Elias cleared the puck out of the
Blackhawk’s offensive zone to Brian Gionta on the left wing. Gionta put the puck over Khabibulin’s outstretched leg.
Elias’ assist marked his 702nd career point as a Devil, moving past John MacLean for first all-time in the organization. The crowd gave Elias a standing ovation for accomplishing the mark, and did not stop despite the fact that Chicago converted on the remaining power play time at the other end.
Cameron Barker fired a shot from the point, and the puck went past Brodeur on the left side. Brodeur, sprawled on the ice, banged his stick in disappointment.
The Blackhawks made the game interesting, making sure Brodeur worked the entire 60 minutes for the record, by scoring with 2:03 left on the clock.
The Devils were unable the clear the puck out of the Chicago offensive zone, and Dustin Byfuglien fired the puck over Brodeur’s glove hand.
Chicago kept the pressure on by pulling the goalie, but Brodeur made a final kick save as the final horn sounded, and the celebration began.
“It’s special, obviously. There’s so much emotion in the building again tonight, this obviously being a home game and having the tremendous support that the fans give this hockey team and to see the way it was here tonight, and obviously everyone was aware of what was going on,” said coach Brent Sutter.
“It’s a special night. There’s not question about it. And to be part of it is pretty neat,” he added.
Brodeur’s family was in attendance, including his father, Denis, who photographed the game from his seat. The goaltender was anxious to see his children after his media duties were complete.
Commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance, but declined to comment in person. He released a statement through his office to congratulate Brodeur.
In nine games since returning from injury, Brodeur won eight games to reach the milestone.
The Devils traveled to Carolina to face the Hurricanes Wednesday. Kevin Weekes will start in goal in relief for Brodeur.
Brodeur has been the safety net for the Devils for 552 victories since he entered the league 17 seasons ago. Tuesday, the net was for him alone.