NEWARK, N.J. - Throughout his decorated career in the crease, Martin Brodeur's smile has shone through his New Jersey Devils mask.
He has been a competitor among competitors, but that doesn't mean the 40-year-old from Montreal can't have fun in good times and bad. The times weren't good last week, when Brodeur and the Devils fell behind 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.
But as dire as the situation appeared, Brodeur kept smiling. He was buoyed by the fact his 81-year-old father Denis made the drive with his best friend, Pierre Villeneuve, from the Montreal suburb of St. Leonard to attend Game 2 eight days ago.
The elder Brodeur underwent a lengthy operation to have a baseball-sized brain tumour removed in mid-February. Yet, there he was, a few rows behind his son in the stands cheering on what may be Marty's last shot at a championship.
Denis, an old goalie himself, brought with him the Canadian sweater he wore as part of the Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen at the 1956 Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, where the Dutchmen captured bronze. He also showed his son an old mask he wore in the final days of his goaltending career.
The trip down memory lane was cherished by father and son, and now they may have something else to treasure if Brodeur and the Devils can pull off this remarkable comeback. A 25-save effort for a 2-1 win at home on Saturday has the Devils trailing the Kings 3-2 with Game 6 set for Los Angeles on Monday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 8 p.m. ET).
"I'm enjoying this," Brodeur said. "They're fun games to be part of. They're tough mentally to go through them because we don't have any tomorrows or anything like that. But they're fun to be part of. I've been enjoying this ride. I will until we're done."
Brodeur has remarked that he'll probably return for another season or two. But he also has stated that a prolonged lockout could dampen his spirit to continue. So we may be witnessing the last of a remarkable athlete.
Brodeur has won three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezina Trophies and a Calder Trophy. He is the only goalie to put together eight 40-win seasons and no netminder has played in more games (1,191), won more (656) and recorded more shutouts (163).
With his victory on Saturday, Brodeur recorded his 17th win in a Stanley Cup final to move into a tie with New York Islanders great Billy Smith on the all-time final wins list.
25 - Jacques Plante, Montreal
24 - Ken Dryden, Montreal
21 - Turk Broda, Toronto
19 - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit (17), Toronto (2)
18 - Patrick Roy, Montreal (10), Colorado (8)
17 - Martin Brodeur, New Jersey; Billy Smith, N.Y. Islanders
Brodeur and the Devils became the first team in 67 years to trail in a final 3-0 and force a Game 6, and it's been 70 years since the 1941-42 Toronto Maple Leafs became the only team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the final and win. But the Devils have designs on equalling the feat.
"They have got the momentum now," Kings defenceman Rob Scuderi said. "It's up to us to get it back."
Brodeur will play in his 205th career playoff game on Monday and he may need to record career playoff shutout No. 25 to make sure the Devils keep the momentum.
"I think they're so close to winning the Stanley Cup that I'm sure it's getting to them a little bit, to be able to have all these chances and not capitalize on them," Brodeur said. "We're looking to just stay alive. Got to win one more game.
"We're still alive ... it's a matter of us now going into a tough environment in L.A. to try to ruin the party again."
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