NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur
responded to an off-night in just the fashion you would expect of a future Hall of Famer.
Two nights after getting pulled from a playoff game for the first time in six years, the 39-year-old set an NHL record with his 24th postseason shutout, stopping 26 shots to lead the New Jersey Devils
to a series-tying 4-0 victory against the Florida Panthers
in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.
By the end of the night, the sellout crowd of 17,625 at Prudential Center was chanting his name in tribute.
"There's always going to be critics," captain Zach Parise
said. "We have all the confidence in the world in him. After last game, I'm sure there was going to be people saying whatever they want to say and we don't care. He doesn't care. But I've seen it for the last seven years and he's always responded."
Did he ever.
"That's vintage Marty Brodeur … we've come to expect that around here," coach Pete DeBoer said.
Brodeur, who was pulled in favor of Johan Hedberg
2:18 into the second period of Game 3 after allowing three goals on 12 shots of what became a 4-3 loss, also played a key role in denying the Panthers on six power-play opportunities. He stopped seven shots with his team down a man against a power play that had scored six times in 10 tries in the first three games.
"We stayed composed and never worried about anything, didn't over-analyze anything," defenseman Bryce Salvador
said. "Marty was our best player and he gave us a chance to win. When he's on, we're very tough to beat."
Brodeur, who has basically rewritten the regular-season record book for goalies by setting marks for career games (1,191), victories (656), shutouts (119) and minutes played (70,028), surpassed Hall of Famer Patrick Roy with his 24th career playoff shutouts. It marked his first postseason goose egg since blanking Carolina 1-0 on April 23, 2009. It was his fourth since blanking Anaheim 3-0 in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final to give the Devils their third title in nine years.
Parise scored in the second period and Steve Bernier
, Travis Zajac
and Ilya Kovalchuk
blew the game open in the third as the Devils evened the series at two wins apiece. Brodeur made his ninth and final save of the third period off the stick of Dmitry Kulikov
with the Devils forced to kill off a late 4-on-3 power play.
"He's a veteran goalie and has been in this situation before, so we have to get more traffic in front of him," Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky
said. "Obviously, if he's going to see the puck, he will stop it, so we need to have more guys and traffic in front. We have to shoot for rebounds and bang those second and third chances in."
The victory assured the Devils another home game on Tuesday, but first they'll travel back to Sunrise, Fla., to face the Panthers in Game 5 on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN2, RDSI).
"Marty made some big saves and was good … they were desperate but we're going home where two out of the next three games will take place," Florida's Stephen Weiss
said. "We knew [Brodeur] would be ready to go [Thursday] and he made good saves when he had to. Now we have to find a way to get some past him."
Clinging to a 1-0 lead at the second intermission, the Devils came out determined to close out the visiting Panthers in the final 20 minutes. Bernier's rocket from the right circle at 2:02 beat former Devil Scott Clemmensen
high on the short side to extend the lead to 2-0. Stephen Gionta
, who was his usual feisty self throughout the course of the contest, took a pass from Brodeur at center ice before leaving the puck for Bernier in the right circle.
"We knew they would be a very hungry team and they proved that,'' said Clemmensen, who allowed four goals on 27 shots in his first postseason start. "You knew Marty would have a bounce-back game. There would be no easy goals. They needed to be desperate and they were. They didn't want to go down 3-1. It's anyone's series. It's been a tight series."
Zajac then sent the hometown faithful into a tizzy when he hammered a one-timer from between the circles into the top left corner at 3:35 for a 3-0 lead. David Clarkson
made the play possible when he skated hard down his left wing and curled around the net before using one arm to feed Zajac in the high slot.
"It got away from us in the third and that really started in the second,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We didn't seem to have the desperation they did. We were out of sorts in the third and couldn't get our offensive game going. We were on the receiving end and didn't have many answers.''
Kovalchuk then made it 4-0 at 8:32 on a rocket from the left circle with the Devils on the power play. A little over a minute later, Kopecky fired a shot off a 2-on-1 that Brodeur snared with his left glove, prompting chants of "Marty, Marty, Marty."
"Our fans, especially the last two games, have been unbelievable," Brodeur said. "The building is packed and it's playoff hockey and there's no other team that they could root for but us, so it's kind of nice. And we're definitely happy about the atmosphere, but you've got to give them candy if you want them to be that loud and I think we did a great job all day long to keep these guys out of any momentum."
The Devils finished 2-for-4 on the power play.
The home team grabbed a 1-0 edge 6:08 into the second on Parise's power-play deflection. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky
unleashed a straightaway 55-foot slapper that skipped off the stick of Zajac before deflecting off Parise' blade and past Clemmensen's left side.
"Zach is the heartbeat of our team, something I've said all year," DeBoer said. "He sets the tone, leads and everyone follows when your captain is your hardest working player, he drags people with him and it's a great situation to be in as a coach."
The frenetic pace continued but both goalies were equal to the task. Brodeur was called upon to make two splendid saves -- his first off a wicked wrist shot by Kulikov at 8:39 and another off the stick of a charging Kris Versteeg
Unlike the previous three games in this series, and perhaps to the delight of both coaches, neither team opened a three-goal lead in the first period. Instead Brodeur and Clemmensen, his former backup, went save-for-save in an entertaining and feverishly played opening 20 minutes in which each team generated 10 shots. Clemmensen, who was making his first career playoff start after winning Game 3 in relief, finished the game with 23 saves.
A key moment in the period came at 7:03 when Devils defenseman Peter Harrold
was whistled for interference, allowing the red-hot Panthers power-play to go to work. The Panthers entered the game 6-for-10 with the man advantage, but Brodeur was flawless as Florida took three shots during the advantage and the game remained scoreless.
"Special teams have been the difference in most of the games in the series so both coaches are spending a lot of time on those areas in film work and I knew our penalty-killing would bounce back and it did," DeBoer said.
The Panthers, who went 3-for-3 with the man advantage in a 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Tuesday, finished game 0-for-6 on the power play in Game 4.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale