Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After missing a month of action with a bad
back, Martin Brodeur was ready to make his presence felt for the New Jersey
Devils in whatever way possible.
Brodeur returned from a 13-game absence Thursday with an opportunity to end a
Devils' losing streak and to gain ground on a key Eastern Conference opponent.
However, since we are talking about one of the greatest goaltenders to ever
play the game, it's fitting the 40-year-old's return was anything but routine.
For the third time in his storied NHL career, Brodeur was credited with a goal
and it almost wound up standing as the game-winner for New Jersey in its 4-1
road win over the Carolina Hurricanes. The victory was an important one for
the Devils, who moved two points ahead of the 'Canes for the seventh of the
conference's eight playoff seeds.
Brodeur scored a power-play goal to stake the Devils to a 1-0 lead less than
four minutes into the first period. He also wound up stopping 17-of-18 shots
in the win and lost his shutout bid, and a shot at the game-winning goal, when
Jeff Skinner scored with 8:33 left in regulation.
Unlike his first goal, which came when he shot the puck directly into an empty
net during a 1997 playoff game against Montreal, Brodeur, who is regarded by
many as the best stick-handling goalie ever, had little to do with his third
With the Hurricanes shorthanded less than four minutes in, Skinner raced in on
a breakaway and was hooked by New Jersey defenseman Marek Zidlicky before
getting off a shot that Brodeur guided into the left corner with his stick.
Carolina goaltender Dan Ellis then left the net on the delayed penalty call,
but Jordan Staal's feed to the left point missed the mark and banked off the
boards before sliding the length of the ice into the vacated net.
Although Brodeur's second career goal, which came against Philadelphia on Feb.
15, 2000, was very similar to the one he "scored" on Thursday, the legendary
backstop didn't know he was going to be credited with another goal until
teammate Ilya Kovalchuk clued him in.
"Kovy knew right away. I wasn't sure what happened," Brodeur said.
Kovalchuk jokingly explained after the game how he should've been credited
with an assist on his netminder's tally.
"I should've gotten an assist because I turned the puck over, I let the guy
beat me one-on-one and then Zid (Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky) tripped
him, so their goalie left the net," Kovalchuk quipped.
The return of Brodeur had everybody in a laughing mood on Thursday, but there
was nothing funny about New Jersey's play while the NHL's all-time wins leader
was out with his wonky back. With veteran backup Johan Hedberg starting all 13
games in Brodeur's absence, the Devils went 3-8-2 and fell out of first place
in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh has since opened a double-digit lead over New Jersey for first
place, but as the Devils showed last spring, they don't need a high seed to
make noise in the playoffs.
Last year, New Jersey was the sixth seed in the East and made it all the way
to the Stanley Cup Finals before bowing out to Los Angeles in six games. It
was the Devils' first trip to the Finals since 2003, when Brodeur led Jersey
to its third Stanley Cup title in eight years.
Brodeur came up huge for New Jersey in last year's postseason run and he
decided to re-sign with the Devils for two more years at $4.5 million per
annum. It's a contract designed to give Brodeur and the Devils a chance at
winning a fourth Cup together and there's a distinct possibility that could
actually come true, provided the netminder can stay healthy.
For years, critics have prematurely announced the end of Brodeur's dominance in
net for no other reason then it seemed like somebody who's been as great as he
has for this long has to slow down at some point. It's similar to what people
assumed would happen to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera at some point,
but like Mo, Brodeur has silenced the critics time and time again.
The fact that Jersey was tied for first in the East before Brodeur went down
to injury and nearly fell out of the playoff picture during his absence is a
clear indication of how much the Devils need him for the stretch run.
Brodeur's latest goal may have been the product of pure luck, but there's been
nothing fluky about the goaltender's success in New Jersey over the past two
decades. The Devils have learned over those years exactly what No. 30 means to
this franchise, but they're hoping a healthy Brodeur can refresh their memories
with another championship run.
The Sports Network