The New Jersey Devils’ record-setting goalie sat out Sunday against the New York Islanders in a game that was to determine the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Maple Leafs stayed alive Saturday night with a stirring comeback victory over Montreal, but needed the Devils to beat the Islanders on the final day of the regular season to earn the right to play top-seeded Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.
Brodeur and coach Lou Lamoriello felt that getting ready for New Jersey’s playoff run was more important than worrying about whether Toronto or the Islanders would get in.
“We went from playing half a game, one period, two periods, the whole game, not playing,” said Brodeur, who set a record with 48 wins this season. “We went through everything, and I think this is the right thing to do.”
So the Maple Leafs’ hopes rested with Devils backup Scott Clemmensen, who played in just his sixth game of the season and made his fourth start. Brodeur could’ve tied Grant Fuhr’s mark for games played in a season, but was content to stay at 78 of 82.
The Devils, Atlantic Division champions and the No. 2 seed in the East, will meet Tampa Bay in the first round.
“I’ve got to put it out of my mind,” Brodeur said of possible backlash from the Maple Leafs. “I am going to make the best out of this week to get myself better preparation and be injury free and be free of the workload.
“You get calls from everybody. You can’t please. Hopefully we’ll win and I won’t have to deal with this.”
Brodeur started the day with one more victory than Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo for the NHL lead. Brodeur broke Bernie Parent’s record of 47 Saturday in Philadelphia and knew that Luongo could only tie him Sunday against Phoenix.
“We talked about the wins record,” said Brodeur, who also broke his own mark of 4,697 minutes played. “It’s something that we thought about, since if you are going to go that far, what’s one more game? When we cleared up that question, we finally made the decision.”
Clemmensen had played only twice since mid-December, a winning start at Washington on Feb. 25 and a relief stint against Carolina on March 17. His appearances are so rare, Islanders forward Ryan Smyth wasn’t even certain of the Devils’ backup’s name.
“I don’t know how long Clemmer … is it Clemmensen? He hasn’t played in a while, so obviously we’re going to try to get on him early,” Smyth said. “We don’t want to change our game plan because they changed their goalie. They’re a good team without their goalie, too.”