NEWARK, N.J. – Martin Brodeur is making it very hard for future goaltenders to break his records as he piles up milestones for the New Jersey Devils.
Brodeur made 19 saves Tuesday night in the Devils’ 6-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The victory lifted him to the 40-win mark for the eighth time. No other NHL goalie has had more than three such seasons.
“It’s always nice to hit it and get it over with,” Brodeur said. “It’s my own record and I’m breaking it. It’s still an accomplishment as I continue to raise the bar.”
The next milestone in sight: 600 wins. The NHL career leader in victories is only three away from that mark. Earlier this year, Brodeur surpassed Terry Sawchuk as the league’s shutout king. Brodeur has 108 career blankings.
Brodeur had plenty of offensive support against the Blue Jackets as the Devils’ dormant power play came alive and produced New Jersey’s first three goals. Travis Zajac and Zach Parise each scored twice and Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and three assists as the Devils jumped over the Penguins and into first place in the Atlantic Division. New Jersey and Pittsburgh both have 90 points, but the Devils have one more win than the Penguins and have played one fewer game.
The Devils grabbed the lead at 13:01 of the first period when Parise pounded home Jamie Langenbrunner’s rebound for New Jersey’s first man-advantage goal in seven games. The Devils failed to connect on their previous 17 power-play attempts.
“It was great to get one on that first power play,” Parise said. “We had great movement. We weren’t standing still. We were a little more relaxed on it.”
The power play had been a focal point in recent practices, and the Devils were confident the goals would come.
“We had been making progress and we practised it a lot,” Parise said. “It was getting better and better and tonight it finally came through.”
Kovalchuk was another one coming through, scoring his first goal in five games and sixth in 17 games with New Jersey. His last few days have been frantic, flying to Florida on Sunday for the birth of his third child and then immediately returning to New Jersey.
“I think we played a very solid game,” Kovalchuk said. “We had a lot of opportunities and worked hard as a unit on the power play. We’ve been spending a lot of time in practice working on that.”
Before Parise staked the Devils to the early lead, Brodeur made sharp stops at the start to keep the Blue Jackets off the scoreboard. Brodeur turned aside Rick Nash’s shot from the slot before making a sprawling save on Derick Brassard.
The Devils broke the game open with four goals in the second period.
The revived power play struck again when Paul Martin scored 1:14 in as the Devils grabbed a 2-0 lead. Martin fired in the rebound of Patrik Elias’ shot for his second goal in four games since returning to the lineup after missing 59 games because of a broken arm.
Antoine Vermette scored for Columbus at 3:40 on a slap shot from just inside the blue line that rocketed past Brodeur’s glove to make it 2-1.
Kovalchuk scored the Devils’ third power-play tally at 12:32, picking the short side to beat Steve Mason from the bottom of the left circle. Zajac scored the next two on deflections at 15:40 and 19:07 as the Devils expanded their lead to 5-1. Jakub Voracek closed out the scoring in the period with 20 seconds remaining to give Columbus a glimmer of hope heading into the third period.
The Blue Jackets cut the Devils lead to 5-3 in the final period when Kristian Huselius netted his fourth goal in five games six minutes in.
Parise snuffed out Columbus’ comeback hopes with his second tally at 12:52, spinning in front of the net before flipping the puck past Mason.
“You get down against them and they’re going to make it tough,” Blue Jackets interim coach Claude Noel said. “Brodeur plays the way he does, and he’s excellent, because he plays these games all the time.
“We still could have won the game. After the first period, the game was still up for grabs. We didn’t come out like we needed to come out. That’s the disappointing thing.”
NOTES: Both teams lost 1-0 on Saturday. The Devils lost at home to St. Louis while the Blue Jackets were beaten in Nashville. … It was the first showdown between Brodeur and Mason, who grew up idolizing the Devils goaltender. … A pair of Devils defencemen reached games-played milestones: Bryce Salvador, 600, and Andy Greene, 200. … Columbus made its first trip to Newark, becoming the last team to visit the Prudential Center. … The Devils improved to 6-2-2 against the Blue Jackets.