And when the Anaheim Ducks scored the go-ahead goal, he witnessed it from the penalty box. The Ducks were playing short-handed midway through the third period because of a hooking infraction against Niedermayer when Todd Marchant got the winner, then added an empty-netter to cap a 4-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday in a matchup of division leaders.
Niedermayer, one of only five players to win three Stanley Cups with the Devils, was drafted third overall by New Jersey in 1991 and had 112 goals and 346 assists in 892 regular-season games for the club.
“I didn’t feel there was anything special to prove against those guys. It was just important for our team to go out and play as well as we could to try and win the game,” Niedermayer said.
“It wasn’t that strange. In a lot of ways it felt like an intense scrimmage, the kind we used to have sometimes. It was fun. I have a lot of good friends over there, on and off the ice – and three Stanley Cups speak for themselves.”
The 2004 Norris Trophy winner signed a US$27-million, four-year contract with Anaheim after the lockout that cancelled the 2004-05 season. Now he is teammates with brother Rob, whom he had to console in the handshake line after Game 7 of the 2003 Finals, when the Devils beat the Ducks 3-0.
“It’s always tough when you face your old team,” said Rob Niedermayer, who has been in this situation twice. “Scott started his career there and went through a lot of stuff with them, so I think it was pretty special for him to win this one for sure. I know everyone in this room wanted to win it for him. It was a pretty meaningful game.”
The teams met for only the second time since the ’03 finals, when the Devils wrapped up their third championship in nine seasons. Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was the MVP of the playoffs that year despite Martin Brodeur’s three shutouts against the Ducks.
“That was a very long time ago, and our team has changed so much since 2003 that it’s hard to think about that,” Giguere said. “Each team won all their home games, so the home-ice advantage played some kind of roll in that series. But you can’t change the past. The Devils are still hard to beat, and this was a huge win for us.”
Dustin Penner and Samuel Pahlsson scored and Giguere made 23 saves for the Ducks, who are off to the best start in franchise history and lead the Western Conference with a 16-2-6 record.
Brian Gionta had a power-play goal and Patrik Elias also scored for the Devils, who began the day tied with the New York Rangers for first in the Atlantic Division. Brodeur made 33 saves.
The Ducks received a two-man advantage early in the third period when Colin White was given a slashing penalty and Brodeur was assessed a high-sticking penalty 37 seconds later. The two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie stopped all four shots during the ensuing 5-on-3 situation.
But the Ducks grabbed a 3-2 lead less than five minutes later on Marchant’s 22nd career short-handed goal. He broke out of the Anaheim zone with the puck and got a return pass right of the net from Travis Moen before sliding the his fourth goal under the diving Brodeur.
“Todd is a true professional and a great example for everybody in this room,” Scott Niedermayer said. “He comes to work every day and does the ugly jobs, the difficult jobs and does them very well. You need guys like that to win hockey games.”
Elias, who replaced Niedermayer as Devils captain, trimmed Anaheim’s lead to 2-1 at 16:43 of the first period with a one-timer from 30-feet in the slot after Jamie Langenbrunner fed him from the left corner. Gionta tied it at 4:25 of the second with his ninth goal while Ducks defenceman Chris Pronger was serving a slashing penalty.
Devils right wing Cam Janssen got into a fight with George Parros on his second shift and missed the rest of the game with an injured right shoulder that was placed in a sling.
“They took X-rays and everything was fine,” Janssen said. “It really doesn’t hurt right now. During the fight it did, but when they popped it back in it felt great. I mean, I look like a fool with this sling on. I’ll probably have to go back to Jersey and get an MRI, so I’m just going to have to suck it up and then I’ll be back.”
Notes: Barring unforeseen circumstances, Niedermayer will play in his 1,000th NHL regular-season game Tuesday night at Edmonton. … The only other time Brodeur and Giguere faced each other since the 2003 Finals was Nov. 26, 2003, when the teams tied 3-3 in Anaheim. … The Devils, who came in averaging a league-low 11.2 penalty minutes, killed off all six Anaheim power plays. They were short-handed only twice in each of their previous three games.