Brodeur stops 30 shots in NHL-record 552nd win
Move over Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur is the National Hockey League's new King of the Crease.
The New Jersey Devils goaltender surpassed his one-time idol and fierce enemy as the league's winningest goalie, earning No. 552 with a 30-save performance in a 3-2 win over visiting Chicago on Tuesday night.
"It's unbelievable," Brodeur said of his achievement in front of a roaring throng of 17,625 at the Prudential Center. "I'm so happy to be able to make this [record] come at home for our fans who have been great all year and throughout my [15-year NHL] career. This game is for you."
Moments after the Devils' 10th straight triumph on home ice, Brodeur called Roy a pioneer in goaltending.
"For me, just to be around these guys, I've been blessed to play for a great organization, great fans, great teammates all my career, great coaches. This is a lot of fun," said Brodeur, who set the record in his 987th game, compared with 1,029 contests for Roy.
"It's been tough the last week. Now we can go on and finish the season and get ourselves in the playoffs."
Brodeur, who recorded his first NHL win on March 26, 1992, against Boston, has allowed one goal or none in 329 games and has prevailed 238 times in one-goal contests.
It would appear his record will stand for some time, considering his closest competitors are Toronto's Curtis Joseph and Detroit's Chris Osgood with 484 and 385 victories, respectively.
'Gold standard of goaltending'
"Martin Brodeur is the gold standard of goaltending — the model of character, consistency and commitment to the craft. A champion. A winner above all," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who was in attendance, said in a statement released after the game.
"This is one of those really special moments that doesn't come along often. Maybe once in a lifetime, maybe once in two lifetimes."
With his father, Denis, in the arena along with other family and friends, Brodeur received congratulations from his teammates after the final buzzer. He then placed his stick, blocker and glove on the net before donning a Devils ball cap and waving to the crowd.
To remember the night, Brodeur cut the mesh around the net and then took a victory lap around the ice — high-fiving his coaches as he passed the bench — while other New Jersey players grabbed their own pieces of souvenir mesh.
"It's definitely harder than I thought," Brodeur quipped. "These basketball players, it's only a little net. This was a big net. I had help from a couple of my teammates."
Brodeur's feat overshadowed Devils winger Patrik Elias's assist on Brian Gionta's goal in the second period that gave Elias a franchise-record 702 points.
Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner also enjoyed a memorable night. His goal 38 seconds after the opening faceoff was his 24th of the season, a career high. It also extended his points streak to nine games that matched a career high.
Travis Zajac also scored for New Jersey, which improved its season record to 46-20-3 and is unbeaten in 12 games against the Blackhawks. More importantly, it moved to within four points of the first-place Bruins in the Eastern Conference and has two games in hand.
Blackhawks apply the pressure
Chicago did its best to spoil a special night for Brodeur and company.
Dustin Byfuglien scored his 12th goal of the season with two minutes left on the clock to make it 3-2 and quiet the Devils faithful.
Then, with Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin pulled for an extra attacker, fans chanting "Mart-tee, Mart-tee, Mart-tee" and 60 seconds remaining, the visitors pressed for the equalizer. But despite keeping the puck in the New Jersey end, Chicago couldn't muster a decent scoring chance.
"Guys were commenting that is was like a Stanley Cup atmosphere there. You know — the intensity, the excitement, the buzz in the arena," veteran Devils forward Brendan Shanahan said. "You felt it from the drop of the puck. You felt it in warmup."
It was a costly setback for the 37-22-9 Blackhawks, who have dropped three in a row and missed a chance to build on their two-point lead over fifth-place Vancouver in the Western Conference.
Defenceman Cam Barker ruined any hope Brodeur had of posting his 101st NHL shutout with a power-play goal at 17:28 of the second period.
With 13 games left on the schedule, Brodeur needs four shutouts to pass Terry Sawchuk (103) for the all-time mark.
"He is a special goalie," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the consistency, the volumes of games he can play and his consistency in the net. They changed the rules because of the way he handled the puck. He's amazing.… At this stage of his career, he looks as good as ever."
New Jersey blue-liner Colin White suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and didn't return.
With files from the Associated Press