SAN JOSE, Calif. – Martin Brodeur will be happy when the focus turns from his benching at the Olympics to his quest for another Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils.
Brodeur gave up three third-period goals after being staked to a four-goal lead and the Devils held on to beat the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in their return from the Olympic break Tuesday night.
“I was happy to get back and do what I do,” Brodeur said. “I had a lot of fun at the Olympics. People always think that because I don’t play I’m not enjoying myself. I really had a good time and our country was really excited about winning the gold. But it’s over. Now it’s back to work.”
Brodeur had a disappointing performance at the Olympics, getting benched following Canada’s 5-3 loss to the United States in the preliminary round. He could only watch as Canada won the gold medal on Sunday with a 3-2 overtime win over the U.S.
Brodeur was so eager to return to his regular job as the Devils’ goalie that he flew to San Jose just hours after the gold medal game ended to prepare for the stretch run. Despite the shaky finish, he got the win.
Dainius Zubrus and Mark Fraser scored goals 35 seconds apart midway through the second period and Ilya Kovalchuk added a power-play goal against Olympic teammate Evgeni Nabokov late in the second. It was Nabokov’s first game since allowing six goals in less than two periods of Russia’s 7-3 loss to Canada in the Olympic quarter-finals.
“I wasn’t sitting there thinking about the Olympics,” Nabokov said. “It’s behind me and I just wanted to get a win here.”
The Sharks almost pulled it off after scoring three goals in a span of 2:46 of the third period to get within 4-3. Devin Setoguchi scored the first two and Joe Pavelski made it a one-goal game with 8:28 remaining. But they couldn’t beat Brodeur again and lost in their first home game in exactly a month.
“We got the four-goal lead and kind of stopped playing a little bit,” Kovalchuk said. “They created a couple of chances and scored a couple of goals, but we didn’t give up and got the win.”
The game featured 13 Olympians, including eight who were on the teams that played in Sunday’s gold medal game. The fans cheered during a video tribute to all the Olympians during a first-period break, with the loudest cheer coming for the five medallists on the Sharks – silver medallist Pavelski and Canadians Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle.
Devils forward Zach Parise, who scored the tying goal in the final minute of regulation for the U.S. in the loss to Canada, also got a nice ovation from the visiting crowd.
Parise had two assists in this game and his U.S. Olympic teammate Jamie Langenbrunner also assisted on Travis Zajac’s goal that made it 4-0 in the third period.
“That’s a really good team that we beat tonight,” Parise said. “We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep them in check for the whole game. I thought for a lot of the game we played really well. We controlled the puck and were able to pull out a big win against a good team.”
The Devils broke through a sluggish game midway in the second period when Patrick Elias’ shot trickled past Nabokov and sat in the goal crease before Zubrus knocked it in for the first goal of the game.
Fraser beat Nabokov with a slap shot from the blue line that went through a screen just 35 seconds later to make it 2-0.
New Jersey added a third goal in the final minute of the period just six seconds after Manny Malhotra went to the penalty box for hooking Elias. The Devils won the ensuing faceoff and Kovalchuk beat Nabokov with a wrist shot for his 33rd goal of the season and second since joining the Devils following a trade from Atlanta last month.
“You can put Nabby in with the rest of the Olympians,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “He’s coming back. He’ll get his game exactly where it needs to be as time goes on. He made some good saves. There were a couple of them that people will probably question, that were deflected and changed direction. That’s always hard for a goaltender.”
Nabokov did stop Kovalchuk on a breakaway in the third period to keep it a one-goal game.
NOTES: The Sharks placed D Marc-Edouard Vlasic on injured reserve before the game with a lower body injury. … This was the only meeting of the season between the teams. … San Jose D Niclas Wallin made his home debut with the Sharks after being acquired in a trade from Carolina during the pre-Olympic road trip.