Standing several feet apart at Montreal's Bell Centre prior to the puck-drop on Saturday night, Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy were side by side in the National Hockey League record book at game's end.
Brodeur, tending goal for the New Jersey Devils in his hometown, stopped 22 shots in a 3-1 win over the Canadiens to tie Roy's league record of 551 career victories.
"I feel great. I'm definitely happy it's over with," Brodeur told Jeff Marek of Hockey Night in Canada. "The last couple days, especially coming into the Montreal, was hectic with press conferences and a lot of people, a lot of family around, but I didn't disappoint anybody."
Brodeur, who has allowed one goal or less in 328 of his 986 regular-season games, could break the record Tuesday — St. Patrick's Day — against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
In his autobiography, Brodeur said he cherishes the all-time wins record above any other individual honour.
"Well, hockey's all about winning," he said. "You jump on the ice as a group, as a team you want to win the hockey game, so when you're the one that's got the most wins … it says a lot about your career and says a lot about the organization I'm playing for."
When the final buzzer sounded on Brodeur's 15th NHL victory in Montreal, the netminder was mobbed by teammates and later raised his stick to salute the appreciative crowd of 21,273 that included his father Denis — a former Canadiens photographer — wife, brothers, sisters and closest friends.
Brodeur's mother, Mireille, is claustrophobic and uncomfortable in crowds, so she stayed home and watched the game on television.
"Our relationship with the fans in Montreal always has been pretty good throughout the years," said Brodeur, "even though I play on the other side. Today, I think they recognized what I did."
Roy: Brodeur 'deserves it all'
Roy, whose records Brodeur has been threatening almost since he arrived in the league in 1992, said he wouldn't have missed the game for the world.
"It was important for me to come and talk to him and express to him how happy I am for him," said Roy, who retired in 2003 and is now coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. "I know how hard he had to work to get there. He deserves it all.
"I'm very happy to be here to see that moment. I think it's great for the game of hockey."
"What I like about Martin is the way he handles himself [off the ice] with the [media] and everybody. I like his attitude," Denis Brodeur told Marek midway through the third period of Saturday's contest from his rinkside seat, where he captured son's historic moment in pictures.
Brodeur improved his record to 7-1-0 in eight starts since returning from a 50-game absence with a torn biceps tendon and is 35-15-5 lifetime versus Montreal.
Several others reached milestones in the game:
- Defenceman Patrice Brisebois made his 1,000th NHL appearance, the 12th Canadien to achieve the feat.
- Devils left-winger Patrik Elias tied John MacLean for first all-time in franchise history with 701 points.
- New Jersey left-winger Brian Rolston recorded his 300th NHL goal.
- Don Koharski refereed his 1,700th NHL contest.
The victory also allowed New Jersey to keep pace with Eastern Conference-leading Boston, which defeated the New York Islanders 2-1 earlier Saturday and has a six-point lead over the second-place Devils (45-20-3).
New Jersey swept the four-game series with the Canadiens and boasts the NHL's best mark of 38-13-1 since Nov. 15.
Elias, Rolston strike on power play
New Jersey led 2-1 for much of Saturday's game on first-period power-play goals by Elias and Rolston, before Jamie Langenbrunner beat Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak at 12:57 of the third period for an insurance marker.
Brodeur, a four-time Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie, credited his teammates with helping to keep him focused on hockey amid all the excitement his chase for the record has brought.
"The game was so tight it didn't really occur to me what was going on," he said. "I just wanted to stay in the game.
"But when we scored that third goal, then I started thinking 'Wow, it's happening.' That was probably the toughest part, but being a close game helped me get through it."
Tomas Plekanec spoiled Brodeur's bid for his 101st NHL shutout midway through the first with his 20th goal of the season and 10th in the past 14 games.
"We had times when we had a good attack going, but after that third goal, they showed us how to play with a lead," said Canadiens coach Bob Gainey.
Halak, starting his first game since Feb. 28, rebounded from a shaky start to make 45 saves. He entered the game with victories in his previous four outings and a 1.97 goals-against average.
The loss was huge for Montreal, which remains fifth in the East at 36-25-8. The Pittsburgh Penguins, who fell 4-3 in a shootout to Ottawa on Saturday, also have 80 points but have played one more game than the Canadiens.
Montreal played without key forwards Alex Kovalev (flu) and Guillaume Latendresse (shoulder) and defenceman Ryan O'Byrne (healthy scratch), while the Devils were minus forward Jay Pandolfo and blue-liners Jay Leach and Andy Greene.
The next game for the Canadiens is Tuesday against the visiting New York Rangers at 7:30 p.m. ET.