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NEW YORK - The Devils' Martin Brodeur and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist spent Tuesday night showing why they are arguably the two best goaltenders in the NHL.
They battled for 65 minutes and three shootout rounds in a scoreless duel filled with brilliant saves that kept the 18,200 fans at Madison Square Garden on their feet. But Patrik Elias beat Lundqvist in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Devils a 1-0 victory in a regular-season game that had the feel of a postseason contest.
Elias' wrister over Lundqvist's catching glove was the only puck to get past either goaltender.
Brodeur made 51 saves for his 107th career shutout -- by far the most saves he's made in one. The previous high was 40 in a 2-0 victory against Boston on Jan. 28, 1999. It was also the first regular-season shutout of his career at MadisonSquareGarden -- he has seven against the Rangers in New Jersey.
Lundqvist was his equal, making 45 saves to earn a shutout while taking one of the hardest-luck losses a goalie can take -- according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 96 shots on goal were the most ever in a scoreless game.
After the game, Brodeur was thankful for not just the win, but for what he thought was some generous scorekeeping.
"I was looking at it. I was loving it," Brodeur said with a laugh when asked if he glanced up at the scoreboard at any point during the contest. "They probably gave me a lot more shots than I probably got. It's not like our building where they take away shots; here they give you shots.
"Lot of shots that went wide that just hit me, or my glove, or my knob. But they were pretty wide. But we'll take it. It's good for the save percentage."
Despite Brodeur's best efforts to diminish his performance, the 37-year-old goaltender said the duel with Lundqvist ranks up there with a scoreless tie he had with Dominik Hasek and the Buffalo Sabres in December 1996. Brodeur "only" had to make 37 saves in that game, just six more than he made through two periods against the Rangers.
"That was a good one," Brodeur said of the battle with Hasek. "We didn't have to decide it back then with Dominik, but I'll definitely remember this game. Both goalies had to be excellent to push it to overtime and in overtime I made a couple saves. The shootout we pushed it to more than the limit. I know people like offense but this was a pretty entertaining game even though it was a 0-0 game."
The goaltenders stopped a combined 86 shots through regulation, and very few were of the soft variety. The previous high for shots in a scoreless tie at MSG was 67 in a game between the Florida Panthers and Rangers on Feb. 28, 1995. In that game, Rangers goalie Mike Richter stopped 23 shots and John Vanbiesbrouck - an ex-Ranger - made 44 saves.
It was only fitting that the Devils (32-11-1) and Rangers (22-17-7) earned a point in this wide-open contest that saw plenty of great scoring opportunities throughout.
Lundqvist faced his stiffest tests in the third period when he stopped 19 shots, including a pair of great chances by Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner from in tight. Zach Parise nearly scored on a backhander off a rush with 3:38 remaining, but once again Lundqvist was there.
"It was fun to play," Lundqvist said. "It was a 0-0 game, but there was a lot of action out there. It is tough to lose it. As a goalie, going into a shootout, I play a big part so there is a little extra frustration when you lose it."
Lundqvist said he did his best to keep his mind off what Brodeur was doing on the other end of the ice.
"You don't think about what is going on at the other end," Lundqvist said. "I just know it is a tight game and I can't afford any mistakes."
Rangers star Marian Gaborik nearly won the game a minute into overtime but Brodeur made a glove save, then had the rebound trickle through his body and wide of the net.
"I had no clue," Brodeur said of what happened after Gaborik's shot hit him. "I made the save, and I dropped it and I saw him just chip it. I just didn't want him to hit it off of me. It just squirted out on the other side. I saw it on the replay. I didn't really see it when it happened."
Rangers right wing Ryan Callahan was in awe of the performances of Brodeur and Lundqvist.
"I think tonight's game was the night of the goalies," Callahan said. "Hank played great for us. Marty played great for them. They showed it in the shootout too. It's tough not to get a win when you get that many shots, but at the same time you have to tip your hat to Marty there, he played a great game.
"It was one of the more fun games I have played in a long time. It had a playoff-type atmosphere out there."
The Rangers came close to scoring several times in the first two periods.
Defenseman Michal Rozsival had a great chance to put the Rangers ahead early in the first. He slipped down from the right point and took a cross-ice pass that had Brodeur out of position, but missed the mostly empty net.
The Rangers' Brian Boyle was sent in on a breakaway midway through the second period, but Brodeur answered that challenge with a pad save, his 23rd stop of the game at that point.
Later in the second, Erik Christensen came out of the corner alone, but Brodeur made a diving poke check. In the ensuing scrum, Parise pulled down Christensen to give the Rangers a power play. It was the first penalty of the game for either team.
The Devils were able to kill that penalty and were rewarded with a power play of their own. Christensen and Dubinsky took roughing and slashing penalties, respectively at 12:04, giving the Devils a 5-on-3 power play for 1:39.
Lundqvist and the penalty killers stood tall during two-man disadvantage, keeping the game scoreless.
"I was glad I was involved because I thought that was a hell of a game to watch," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "I thought it was a really good game - chances for both teams, we kill off a 5-on-3 for almost two minutes. I don't have any complaints for how we played."
Brodeur also didn't have any complaints, especially not with whoever was keeping track of the Rangers' shots on goal.
So just how many shots did Brodeur think he stopped?
"At least over 40. Probably not 51 though," he said with a chuckle. "I'm taking it for sure. It's in the books."
|Zach Parise Holding against Erik Christensen|
|Erik Christensen Roughing against Jamie Langenbrunner|
|Brandon Dubinsky Slashing against Travis Zajac|
|Brian Rolston Tripping against Michael Del Zotto|