Brodeur’s team was outshot 34-26, but the veteran goaltender from Montreal made 32 saves – some of his biggest in the third period – during a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning that sent the Devils on to the second round of the NHL playoffs.
The starting date for their Eastern Conference semifinal opener at home against the Ottawa Senators has yet to be announced.
The Devils had trailed 2-1 in the series, and there were whispers about Brodeur’s goaltending because he allowed three goals in each of the first four games. But Brodeur buckled down and helped the Devils win three in a row. A 4-3 win in Game 4 on a Scott Gomez overtime goal was the turning point, and Brodeur followed that one with a 3-0 shutout in Game 5.
“It’s a fine line in the playoffs but Gomer scored that goal in overtime and now we’re moving on,” said Brodeur.
Brian Gionta scored twice and Brian Rafalski once in the clincher. The Devils got up 2-0 and, given the defensive diligence they habitually display, it was too far back for the Lightning to recover. Patrick Elias assisted on all three of New Jersey’s goals.
Brad Richards scored two power-play goals for Tampa Bay in front of an announced crowd of 20,019.
Brodeur’s 93rd postseason win moved him ahead of Grant Fuhr and into second place on the career playoff list behind Patrick Roy’s 151.
New Jersey was 2-for-4 and Tampa Bay 2-for-6 on power plays.
Gionta scored the only goal of the first period on a power play at 14:29, and Rafalski made it 2-0 with another power-play goal 1:21 into the second. Richard replied on a power play at 5:10, Gionta made it 3-1 at 5:49 with his fifth goal of the series. Richards connected on another power play at 10:46. Richards, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis scored 11 of Tampa Bay’s 14 goals in the series, but that was it for the scoring.
The Devils’ checking, and Brodeur’s goaltending, stymied the Lightning time and time again in the final period.
Tampa Bay hasn’t won a playoff round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
New Jersey got to the second round last year before being eliminated in five games by the eventual champions, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Against Ottawa this season, the Devils lost 8-1 on the road last Oct. 21 and won the last three – 3-2 at home Nov. 17, 3-2 in Ottawa on Jan. 6 and 2-1 in a home shootout April 3.
“It just keeps getting tougher,” said Gomez. “Ottawa’s a great team.
“We’ve had some history with those guys in the playoffs so it should be fun.”
The last Ottawa-New Jersey series was 2003 when the Devils won the conference final by taking the seventh and deciding game.
Notes: Johan Holmqvist made 23 saves for Tampa Bay . . . The first team to score won each game of the series . . . New Jersey D Colin White did not make the trip, missing his fourth consecutive game with a back injury . . . Lightning RW Ruslan Fedotenko was a healthy scratch after dressing for Game 5 but not playing. He was benched because of a lack of production. He scored one goal in his last 29 games.