Rick DiPietro’s head injury could be the thing that keeps the New York Islanders out. Brodeur made 23 saves and earned his team-record 44th win in the Devils’ 3-2 victory over the Islanders on Tuesday night that clinched a postseason berth for the Atlantic Division leaders.
“Your first goal when the season starts is make the playoffs,” Brodeur said. “Now we accomplished that and hopefully we’ll keep our number two spot.”
The Islanders began the night tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference, but dropped into a three-way tie for ninth hours after DiPietro – their franchise goalie – was scratched from the lineup because of headaches.
Now they are two points below the postseason cutoff line with only six games remaining and have no idea if DiPietro will be back in time to help them.
“He’s been playing so well for us. He gives us a lot of confidence. Saying that, we can’t worry about who’s in net,” said forward Jason Blake, who scored his 38th goal. “When they have the best goaltender in the world, it’s tough to generate offence. We’re fighting for our lives.”
New Jersey has no such worries and won its second straight after dropping four of five. Brodeur made 23 saves and beat the Islanders for the sixth time this season, including three shutouts. He is three wins shy of tying Bernie Parent’s NHL record of 47 victories in a season.
“It’s great anytime you beat your own record,” Brodeur said. “It’s a lot of wins for one season.
“We have a lot of games left and hopefully we’ll get some more.”
The Devils have six games remaining and are trying to hold off the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are tied with them in points thanks to a recent surge that coincided with New Jersey’s slide.
Zach Parise scored his career-high 30th goal, and Scott Gomez netted one in the second to make it 2-0. David Clarkson added a third-period, power-play goal against Islanders backup Mike Dunham.
DiPietro sat out because of headaches first felt following Sunday’s overtime loss to the New York Rangers.
Alexei Yashin’s power-play goal got New York to within 2-1 in the second period and Blake scored his 38th goal to make it 3-2 with 6:21 left in the game.
Brodeur made that stand up with a toe save against Mike Sillinger in the final seconds.
Dunham was better than in three appearances after DiPietro injured his head March 13, but not as sharp as DiPietro has been. Dunham finished with 29 saves on 32 shots, and was replaced by Wade Dubielewicz 6:35 into the third because of leg cramps. He took intravenous fluids and should be ready, if needed, Friday in Buffalo.
“I could have battled through it, but with the need for points at this time of the year, I didn’t want to make things worse,” Dunham said. “A goalie is useless if he can’t bend his legs.”
DiPietro is in the first season of a landmark 15-year contract with the Islanders. He left in the first period against the Canadiens two weeks ago following a mid-ice collision with Montreal forward Steve Begin. Dunham relieved and allowed five goals on 32 shots in the loss.
Dunham also played the next two games, giving up 11 goals on 61 shots in losses to Ottawa and Florida. DiPietro went 2-0-2 in four games after returning.
Parise connected for a power-play goal at 6:11 when he scored off his own rebound. Dunham got over to block the first shot with his stick, but Parise pushed the rebound back in for No. 30 – 16 more than he posted last season as a rookie.
“I didn’t come into this year expecting to do that,” Parise said. “It’s definitely a bonus.”
Patrik Elias made his presence felt in the second upon his return from a five-game absence caused by a groin injury. He got the puck to Gomez, who rushed to the bottom of the left circle and attempted a pass to Clarkson at the right post. Islanders defenceman Chris Campoli slid to try to cut it off, but the puck bounced in off him to make it 2-0 at 5:20.
Yashin cut the deficit in half exactly five minutes later, but Clarkson restored New Jersey’s two-goal lead 4:44 into the third.
Notes: Brodeur won 43 games three other seasons . . . Dubielewicz was recalled along with D Allan Rourke from Bridgeport of the AHL. Rourke filled in for D Freddy Meyer, out indefinitely due to a broken finger . . . New Jersey RW Jamie Langenbrunner returned after leaving Saturday’s win at Florida because of illness. The Devils also got back C Erik Rasmussen, who missed two games (shoulder). Forwards John Madden and Brian Gionta are still out.