NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur, in what could possibly be the final game of his career as a member of the New Jersey Devils, made 16 saves in a 3-2 victory against the Boston Bruins at Prudential Center on Sunday.
Brodeur, who earned his first NHL victory against the Bruins on March 26, 1992, notched win No. 688 before 16,592 appreciative fans. Brodeur (19-14-6), who skated off the ice to a loud ovation, was named the game's first star.
Players remained on the ice following the game, clicking their sticks on the ice in appreciation. After leaving for the dressing room, Brodeur returned to the ice to those familiar chants of "Marty! Marty!"
"These things are hard," Brodeur said. "I've spent all my life here. A lot of the fans that are out there think they know me by my name and I feel they know me. They've been calling my name for 20 years. It kind of means a lot because it's something, it's a relationship that people have with the people that supports him. It was definitely fun, but it was a little emotional."
Brodeur has made public his desire to continue playing beyond this season; it could be for a team other than the Devils, the only NHL organization he's played for. Brodeur will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He turns 42 on May 6. He acknowledged that his lack of playing time was one thing that frustrated him this season.
"I think that's an obvious one," he said. "The position the coaching staff was in with having two goalies No. 1, it just doesn't work. It didn't work in Vancouver. It didn't work here too good. We didn't make the playoffs. I think it's important when you have one good goalie you have to give him the bulk of the work and [Cory Schneider] will get that from now on."
Brodeur discussed his future while being surrounded by reporters in the dressing room after the game.
"There's a good possibility [this could be my last game as a Devil] if opportunities come in a different way," Brodeur said. "Depending on what I'm able to find out in free agency and what I'm ready to do. There's not many things, but there are possibilities for me that will take a lot of sitting down and really thinking about it. But it might be the last game I played as a Devil, that's for sure."
Coach Peter DeBoer was happy the team was able to get him the win.
"We all knew the importance of the night for Marty and the fans," DeBoer said. "Hopefully it's not his last game but if it was, it was an appropriate result and appropriate reaction by the crowd."
Travis Zajac and Marek Zidlicky scored goals in the third period to snap a 1-1 tie. Jaromir Jagr assisted on those goals to move past Gordie Howe into eighth place on the NHL's all-time list for career assists at 1,050. He also tied Steve Yzerman for sixth place on the all-time points list at 1,755.
Brad Marchand scored a power-play goal with 16 seconds remaining in the third to pull the Bruins within 3-2.
DeBoer would certainly welcome having Brodeur and Cory Schneider back between the pipes in 2014-15. Schneider has one more season remaining on his contract but could be signed to an extension beginning July 1.
"It was nice to get the win for him and get him the goals," Schneider said. "We don't know what's going to happen this summer or what he's going to do, but if we're speaking as if this is his last game as a Devil, it was standard Marty making big saves and a few of those trademark glove saves so it was fun to watch.
"He deserves all of it, every second of the cheering and the fan support and the support from us. It's been fun to get to know him. He's a great goalie and an even better person. He doesn't necessarily want all of it but he's going to get the adoration and applause he should."
Since being recalled from Saint-Hyacinthe Laser of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in March 1992 to face the Bruins after Chris Terreri and Craig Billington went down with illnesses, Brodeur has established himself as arguably the best ever to play the position, setting numerous League records.
"I learned a lot from him, watching him in practice and games and how bad he wants to win and how bad he competes," Zajac said. "It's been a privilege to play with him. He's a true winner and leader and the best goalie to ever play the game. It was great to see him get the cheers, he's a great ambassador for this team."
Zajac broke a 1-1 tie when he scored his 18th of the season by tipping home a shot from the slot off a feed from Jagr in the left circle at 3:52 of the third period. Zidlicky scored his second of the game on the power play off a slap shot from the top of the left circle at 6:13.
Jagr, 42, has 705 goals, 1,050 assists and 1,755 points in his NHL career that spans 20 seasons. He trails Mike Gartner (708 goals) by goals for sixth on that all-time list. Jagr also becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and left open the possibility of returning.
"We'll have to wait and see whatever my agent and Lou [Lamoriello] will talk about," Jagr said. "I like it here a lot; no question about it. At my age, it's pretty tough to change teams year after year. It took me 15-20 games just to get used to the players. It's not easy to play in this League, plus you have to get used to new systems, new players. That's tough for me and I don't have many games left."
The Devils (35-29-18, 88 points) failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season. That hadn't happened since 1986-87, in the final season of nine straight misses.
The Bruins (54-19-9, 117 points), having already clinched the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, decided to rest several key players including forwards Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille, Chris Kelly, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and defenseman Zdeno Chara. The Bruins will face the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
Zidlicky scored his first goal in 19 games when he took a pass from Zajac and curled behind the net before stuffing a shot inside the left post at 7:12 of the first period. The Bruins got even with 31.9 seconds left in the first on the power play when Eriksson capped a tic-tac-toe pass play from Marchand and Carl Soderberg.
Zidlicky's goal officially knocked the Bruins from contention for the William Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltenders for the team with the fewest goals allowed. The Los Angeles Kings ended the season with a League-low 174 goals allowed; the Bruins closed the season with 177.
|Marek Zidlicky (11) ASST: Travis Zajac (30), Patrik Elias (35)|
1 - 0 NJD
|PPG - Loui Eriksson (10) ASST: Carl Soderberg (31), Brad Marchand (28)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Travis Zajac (18) ASST: Jaromir Jagr (42), Jon Merrill (9)|
2 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Marek Zidlicky (12) ASST: Damien Brunner (14), Jaromir Jagr (43)|
3 - 1 NJD
|PPG - Brad Marchand (25) ASST: Carl Soderberg (32), Loui Eriksson (27)|
3 - 2 NJD
|Damien Brunner Interference on goalkeeper against Chad Johnson|
|Alex Khokhlachev Hooking against Damien Brunner|
|Peter Harrold Interference against Alex Khokhlachev|
|Gregory Campbell Tripping against Damien Brunner|
|Dougie Hamilton Holding against Michael Ryder|
|Michael Ryder Holding against Gregory Campbell|