BUFFALO, N.Y. – Martin Brodeur realized he had a good chance of catching Terry Sawchuk, and his teammates helped made sure he finished with a shutout.
Brodeur tied Sawchuk’s NHL record with his 103rd shutout, leading the New Jersey Devils to a 3-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
“Right after the second I was thinking, ‘Well, I’ve got this chance now,”‘ Brodeur said. “My goal was (get to) nine minutes, then take baby steps towards it.”
The approach worked, as Brodeur was rarely tested in making 22 saves to tie Sawchuk, who played from 1949-70. It was Brodeur’s second shutout of the season after he blanked Carolina on Oct. 17.
“It’s a big number,” said Brodeur after taking pictures with the historic puck in front of a piece of paper with the number “103” taped behind his locker stall. “When I look back, and all the numbers of other goalies, it’s mind-boggling a little bit. It’s a little bit like what the win record was. But, especially with hockey changing so much, it’s going to get harder and harder to get some.”
The record-tying night wasn’t lost on anybody on the Devils – except for maybe rookie forward Niclas Bergfors, who was wondering what the hoopla was all about after the game.
“I told him that Marty set a record, and he said, ‘Another record?”‘ captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. “It’s pretty amazing … it’s hard enough to get 100 wins in this league let alone 100 shutouts. Obviously it’s pretty special.”
Brodeur is the only active goalie on the Top 22 all-time shutout list. Detroit’s Chris Osgood is the next active goalie behind Brodeur with 50 shutouts, good for 23rd.
“He’s one of the best there is and there’s a lot of reasons for it,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told The Associated Press. “He loves the game, and he works at it every day. He respects his teammates, and is a team player. He’s been with us from Day 1, and he’s never changed. No matter what success he has, he’s the same person and he loves to win.”
The NHL’s winningest goalie, Brodeur earned his league-leading 18th victory of the season. He preserved the shutout with a lightning-quick glove stop on Buffalo defenceman Steve Montador’s wrist shot from the slot five minutes into the third period.
“I kind of waved at it, and it hit the top of my glove,” Brodeur said. “I got kind of lucky that it stayed in front of me.”
Brian Rolston, Travis Zajac and Bergfors scored for New Jersey (20-7-1), owners of the best road record (11-2-1) and a three-game winning streak.
“We made it pretty easy on him,” Sabres right wing Jason Pominville said. “I don’t think we had 10 shots after two periods. Against the best goalie in the world, you give him 10 shots, he’s not going to let up much.”
Brodeur tied the record while matching up against one of the NHL’s best goalies, Ryan Miller.
Miller, who came in as the NHL leader in goals-against average (1.85) and save percentage (.936) finished with 34 saves, and got little help from a Sabres team that was consistently bottled up by New Jersey’s tenacious forecheck.
“If you’re going to lose, at least you’re here for something good with that,” Miller said. “He’s a great goalie and has accomplished a lot. That’s a lot of shutouts.”
Rolston opened the scoring with his 10th of the year with 2:09 left in the first period, poking the puck past Miller from the slot.
Zajac made it 2-0 just 67 seconds later, netting his ninth of the year. His slap shot from the high slot appeared to deflect off Buffalo defenceman Andrej Sekera before going under Miller’s left arm.
Bergfors increased the Devils lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal 38 seconds into the second period. From the top of the left circle, Bergfors whipped a wrist shot past Miller, who was screened, for his ninth of the season.
“Our effort was embarrassing,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “It was definitely a clunker. We didn’t have enough desperation.”
NOTES: Brodeur needs four appearances to tie Patrick Roy for the NHL record for most games played by a goalie (1,029). … Brodeur’s only other shutout against Buffalo was a 0-0 overtime tie in New Jersey in Dec. 1996. … This was the only road game for New Jersey during a 10-game stretch that began on Nov. 28. … Sabres RW Mike Grier missed the game because of personal reasons, while D Chris Butler missed his second straight game because of an ankle injury. … The road team has won the last six meetings between these two teams. … Thirteen of the Devils’ last 18 opponents have been held to two or fewer goals.