It took 18 years, but Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils finally got it done.
The Devils saw a trip to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final vanish when they couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead against the Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home. New Jersey blew another 2-0 lead Friday night -- again in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final -- but, this time, they got to overtime before Adam Henrique's goal at 1:03 gave the Devils a 3-2 win and their fifth trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1995.
Game 6 in 1994 marked the sixth straight playoff start for a rookie goaltender named Martin Brodeur. Friday's game marked Brodeur's 188th consecutive postseason start -- no one else has started a playoff game for the Devils since the series with the Rangers began 18 years ago.
The victory was the first in three tries for Brodeur against the Rangers in an elimination game that went past regulation. Brodeur has played six elimination games that have gone into overtime and has won the last four since losing to the Rangers in 1994 and '97.
This continues to be the best spring of Brodeur's career when it comes to overtime. He entered 2012 with a career record of just 12-21 in OT during the postseason but has won four of five overtime games this year. That includes series-winning victories against Florida and the Rangers.
Fast starts pay off -- For the third game in a row, the Devils were able to take a multiple-goal lead after one period, forcing the Rangers to play catch-up. New Jersey led 2-0 after the first period in Game 4, 3-1 in Game 5 and 2-0 again Friday night.
In all, the Devils outscored the Rangers 8-1 in the opening period during the series -- and they've outscored opponents 23-9 in the opening 20 minutes in their 18 games this spring. That has given them the ability to survive opposition comebacks: They've allowed opponents to overcome multiple-goal deficits five times -- including Games 5 and 6 against New York -- but lost only one of those games.
Painful loss -- The Game 6 loss ended a grueling postseason for the Rangers, who were trying to become the first team to make the Stanley Cup Final by winning three Game 7s.
It was the ninth time in their history that the Rangers have been eliminated in overtime; before Friday, the last one came in 2008 when Pittsburgh beat them 3-2 in Game 5. Henrik Lundqvist was in goal for both games, and the loss to the Devils dropped him to 3-8 all-time in playoff overtime games, including 2-3 this season.
As even as it gets -- The Devils now turn their attention to the Los Angeles Kings, who will come to Prudential Center for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). If history is any guide, expect a long series.
The teams have never met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they've faced off 57 times in the regular season since the Devils moved to New Jersey from Denver in 1982. The teams are exactly even -- each has 27 wins, 25 losses, three ties, one overtime loss and one shootout loss for 59 points apiece. The Kings have outscored the Devils 191-189.
The teams have met eight times since the institution of the shootout in 2005; each has won three times in regulation and once in the tiebreaker. The Devils' shootout win came Oct. 13 in Newark; they went to Los Angeles 12 days later and won 3-0 at Staples Center.
The shutout victory went to Devils' backup Johan Hedberg, who beat L.A. backup Jonathan Bernier that night. In fact, Martin Brodeur played only one period against Los Angeles this season -- he left after 20 minutes in the game at New Jersey due to injury.
Brodeur is 8-6-1 all-time against the Kings, who have been the victim of just one of his NHL-record 119 shutouts -- a 4-0 win on Nov. 25, 2003. Quick, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy this season, is 3-1-1 in his career against the Devils.
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