Like Cream Rising, Brodeur Stops Canes
When the horn blared after the Devils' 2-0 victory over Carolina on Saturday night, the 37-year-old future first ballot Hall of Fame goaltender raised his stick high and grinned like it was his first NHL win instead of his 561st.
"I always celebrate," Brodeur said after his 26-save shutout of Carolina for the Devils' first win at the Prudential Centre after three unsuccessful attempts. "Getting the first home win is important. It took too long this time, but we have to get our home-ice advantage back. This was a start."
Like everything at this early point in the Devils' 4-3-0 season, little came easily.
In a goaltending duel between potential Canadian Olympic teammates Brodeur and Cam Ward, a scoreless tie was broken by the Devils 26 seconds into the third period. After a poke check by Ward, the puck caromed off captain Jamie Langenbrunner and into the Carolina net for the game-winner. Other than Langenbrunner's upper body goal (an empty-netter by Zach Parise with 40 seconds left clinched the game), the offensively-challenged Devils worked hard but could not get anything past Ward.
Brodeur, who is now just one regular season shutout shy of Terry Sawchuk's NHL record of 103, knew it was going to come down to him vs. Ward.
"When we scored the first goal, I was thinking that might be it, that might be all the production I'm going to get tonight," Brodeur said with a slight laugh. "Cam is such a good goalie. I'm always impressed by him. Any time you play against one of the best, you have to raise your game."
Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire said it was an easy decision to come back with Brodeur after his team lost 4-2 to Atlanta on home ice on Friday night. The coach pointed out that his team does not play again until Thursday against the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. When Brodeur made a sliding save on a 2-on-1 early in the game, Lemaire said, "It was all downhill. That's how we know him. That's the type of game he can play."
While he stuck with Brodeur, Lemaire made many adjustments to his lineup. The biggest was breaking up New Jersey's No. 1 line of Travis Zajac centering Parise and Langenbrunner, a line Lemaire said in the preseason he was likely to stick with most of the year. The returning head coach placed Dainius Zubrus between his top wings and Zajac between skilled youngsters Matt Halischuk and Niclas Bergfors. He was happy with the results.
"I feel much better with what we have right now," said Lemaire, who discussed the changes with his players before the game. For his part, Parise understood the change. "It's not like we were scoring four or five goals a game," he said.
For the third game in a row and fourth in five, the Devils made a game tougher with the self-inflicted wound of a too many men on the ice penalty. "I think we're practicing our penalty kill," Lemaire joked.
When you win, mistakes can be laughed off -- especially when it's your first victory at home and the players have a day off before three days of practices.
"Yeah, we needed this," said Brodeur. "You don't want to have four days without games after you've lost two in a row at home. (Former coach) Pat Burns was the first guy to come in here and preach about winning at home. He said there were a lot of advantages -- you can match lines, you're coming to the games from your own homes, you play in front of your own fans. Pat always said you have to win these home games because you never know what the road might bring."
ETC: Saturday night was the first meeting between the two teams since "The Shock at the Rock," when Carolina scored twice in the final minutes of Game 7 to win an opening round playoff series over New Jersey last season.
The Devils scratched D Cory Murphy, LW Andrew Peters and RW Ilkka Pikkarainen. The Hurricanes scratched D Jay Harrison and are without RW Erik Cole (broken bone in leg -- expected back in a month). D Joni Pitkanen returned after missing five games with a lower body injury.
After the game, Lemaire raved about the play of rookie left wing Niclas Bergfors. "I liked him from day one," said the coach. "I think he is a player. Him and Matt (Halischuk), they never stop."
According to a published report, Devils all-time leading scorer Patrik Elias is slated to return to the lineup on Nov. 4, a home game against Washington. Elias underwent groin surgery on Sept. 15.
Hurricanes C Eric Staal played in his 343rd consecutive regular season game. To tie the franchise record of 419 set by now-Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, Staal would have to play in every game this season and the opener in 2010-11. The 24-year-old Staal is one of just six NHL players with 30 or more goals in each of the last four seasons, joining Dany Heatley, Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin and Henrik Zetterberg.