NEWARK, N.J. – During his 15-year career, Martin Brodeur has played for Stanley Cups, Olympic gold medals and world championships.
A relatively easy 26-save performance on Thursday night in the New Jersey Devils’ 5-2 win over the hapless Phoenix Coyotes has put Brodeur in position to return home to Montreal and play for something just as important – Patrick Roy’s NHL mark for career wins by a goaltender.
“Now, there’s something to really get excited about, with the possibility of tying it on Saturday,” Brodeur said after the Devils set a franchise record with their ninth straight home win. “I’m happy we won and I’ll be very happy to tie it in Montreal.
“It just adds to the story. You can’t ask for a better script. Everything happens for a reason. I just want to be able to put this all behind me. It feels good to be back playing and to get a chance like this.”
Brodeur admitted the hardest thing to do this weekend will be to keep his emotions in check. He has already taken some of the distractions out of the mix, telling friends and neighbours not to bother him for tickets in Montreal, where Roy starred for a large chunk of his career.
“It’s definitely going to be a different atmosphere,” he said. “I’ll try to maintain my emotions and try not to be distracted by it all.”
The 36-year-old, four-time Vezina Trophy winner insists the experience is going to be fun, adding he was going to play hard on Saturday no matter how many wins he had.
“This is going to be a bit of pressure and stuff,” Brodeur said. “It should be fun. I’m happy I’ll be able to live it, and live it with my family and friends.
Brodeur faced no more than five quality changes in winning for the sixth time in seven games since returning from surgery on Feb. 26. He missed 50 games after having a torn biceps in his left elbow repaired.
Zach Parise and John Madden scored in the opening 2:56 as the Devils won for the 11th time in 14 games. Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac also had goals.
Scottie Upshall and Steven Reinprecht tallied for the Coyotes, who have lost four in a row and seven of eight.
Devils’ fans gloated in the woes of Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky’s team, remembering the Great One’s playing days when he referred to the Devils as a Mickey Mouse organization after the team moved to New Jersey in the early 1980s.
After the two quick goals, and at several other times during the game, the crowd chanted “Mickey Mouse Club” to rub it in.
It almost made Brodeur’s pursuit of the record a ho-hum part of the game.
Taking advantage of a turnover, Parise scored 18 seconds after the opening faceoff for his 40th of the season. It came on the first shot against Josh Tordjman, a 24-year-old goalie making only his second start. This one came against his fellow Montreal native.
“The guy is a Hall of Fame goaltender, definitely one of the tops in the league,” Tordjman said of Brodeur. “It was special and at the same time I took it as a challenge. When you face that guy you want to beat him for sure. It was definitely special. Those first two goals early on, that was a bump in the road. As the game got on I felt more comfortable.”
Jamie Langenbrunner set up Parise’s second goal in two games by finding the left wing in the circle. His opening shot of the game found the back of the net.
“It’s always a good feeling to get one that quickly,” Parise said. “It gets everyone excited, including the fans, right away. It’s much easier in this league to play with a lead. Regardless of who is in net, you want to make sure you get all you can as early as you can.”
Madden stretched the margin to 2-0 with the Devils’ third shot. Defenceman Johnny Oduya took a shot from the right point and Madden tipped it into the corner of the net for his seventh goal.
That spelled immediate trouble for Phoenix, which has scored fewer than three goals in all eight games in their skid.
Upshall got the Coyotes back in the game at 9:34 with his 10th goal early in a four-minute power play assessed to Zubrus for high-sticking. Petr Prucha tipped a loose puck to Upshall, who backhanded it in with Brodeur caught out of position.
New Jersey broke the game open in the second period. Brendan Shanahan set up Zubrus for a one-timer at 7:11, and Elias converted a 2-on-1 with Brian Gionta for a 4-1 lead.
Zajac scored in the third period with the Devils’ enjoying a two-man advantage. Reinprecht tallied with 2:08 to go.
Now all that is left for Brodeur is getting win No. 551.
“It is going to be unbelievable,” Tordjman said of the game in Montreal. “He is getting a chance to do it where Patrick had glorious years of his career. Definitely it will be special for Marty and a big moment in the history of hockey.”
Notes: Parise is the seventh Devils player to score 40 goals in a season, joining John MacLean, Brian Gionta, Pat Verbeek, Patrik Elias, Alexander Mogilny and Claude Lemieux. … Devils D Bryce Salvador matched his season high with two assists. … Coyotes RW Brandon Prust fought Salvador and David Clarkson. The officials let the scuffle with Clarkson go on for about two minutes during a chippy third period.