The New Jersey Devils’ standout goalie earned his 552nd career victory, the most wins ever by an NHL goalie, Tuesday night at the Prudential Center, besting the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 before a raucous crowd that chanted “Marty, Marty” and “Marty’s better” throughout the game.
With the victory, Brodeur moved past Hall of Famer Patrick Roy for the most regular-season wins in a career. Signed to play for three more seasons at least, Tuesday’s record-breaking performance would appear to be the first of the dominoes to fall as Brodeur stakes his claim to the major goaltending records. But he will worry about records at another time.
"For me, there are still a lot of things I want to do, I want to accomplish,” Brodeur told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “I want to challenge for the Stanley Cup again in my career and I'll try to pile up these wins as hard as I can to make it really, really hard on the guy that's going to be behind me."
Brodeur’s remarkable achievement came in a season in which he missed 50 games following surgery to repair a torn biceps tendon. He returned to the lineup on Feb. 26 and is now 8-1-0 over that span as New Jersey continues to lead the Atlantic Division and chase the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We've been having a great season here, and the last thing I wanted to do was disturb what was going on when I came back from injury,” Brodeur said. “I know it's a big deal what I just accomplished and I'm happy I was able to do it so quickly so we can concentrate on the last 14 games or so to get us ready as much as we can to get into the playoffs and that's what the major goal is.”
"Martin Brodeur is the gold standard of goaltending -- the model of character, consistency and commitment to the craft," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. A champion. A winner above all.
"It is difficult to imagine any player who is more universally, and deservedly, respected. The National Hockey League is extremely proud of Martin, his historic achievement and his enduring contribution to our game."
It also was a historic night for Devils' forward Patrik Elias, who earned his 702nd career point in the second period, making him New Jersey’s all-time leading scorer.
For New Jersey, the victory was the 10th straight on home ice, also a franchise record. New Jersey is now 46-20-3 for the season
The Devils couldn’t wait to get the party started as Jamie Langenbrunner one-timed a slick Zach Parise backhand feed past Nikolai Khabibulin just 38 seconds into the game to put New Jersey up a goal on its first shot.
New Jersey’s top line gained the zone with speed, catching the Hawks flat-footed. Parise roared down the right side and sensed Langenbrunner coming free in the high slot. The puck was on his tape and Langenbrunner didn’t waste any time stopping to set up, instead leaning into the shot that flew past Khabibulin for Langenbrunner’s 24th goal of the season and Parise’s 43rd assist.
A holding penalty to Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith at 4:01 proved costly when the Devils cashed in the man-advantage opportunity as the penalty ended for a 2-0 lead.
This time, Travis Zajac did the damage only seconds after being unable to control a puck at his feet in close to the Chicago net. He didn’t miss on the second opportunity, again taking advantage of Parise’s playmaking skills. Parise spotted Zajac coming free to Khabibulin’s right and threaded the needle across, when Zajac converted his 20th goal of the season at 6:01.
From a Brodeur standpoint, the first period was rather quiet, despite the Hawks’ 14 shots. He had a pretty good look at the majority of shots and effortlessly cleared them out of harm’s way or to waiting teammates, who returned the favor by gobbling up rebounds and loose pucks while playing with intensity and passion in the defensive zone.
A shorthanded goal by Brian Gionta that gave the Devils a 3-0 lead at 16:56 of the second period added another element of history to this historic night as Elias picked up the primary assist for his 702nd career point, making him the Devils’ all-time leading scorer, surpassing current assistant coach John MacLean.
With the Devils killing off a penalty to defenseman Johnny Oduya at 15:49, Elias grabbed a loose puck and took off, with Gionta racing down the left side. Elias, who had been denied on at least three solid scoring chances earlier in the period, put the puck right on Gionta’s stick in the slot and he made certain with a shot that beat Khabibulin to the stick side.
Gionta raced for the puck to give Elias, who was serenaded by chants of “Patrik Elias, Patrik Elias” from the crowd that switched seamlessly from chant to chant for the entire night.
Unfortunately for New Jersey, there was still time remaining on Oduya’s penalty -- and Chicago capitalized when defenseman Cam Barker’s drive from the point eluded Brodeur, who was fighting traffic in front to see the puck, to no avail.
The Hawks had better scoring chances in the middle period, with the best again coming off the stick of Campbell who broke into the New Jersey end on a power-play rush, but Brodeur got his stick on the low shot.
Earlier, Toews swept around a diving Paul Martin and appeared to have a great chance, but defenseman Niklas Havelid paid the dividends New Jersey was hoping for when acquiring him from Atlanta earlier in the month, trapping Toews’ stick, resulting in a weak shot Brodeur redirected out of danger.
The Blackhawks mounted only sporadic pressure for much of the third period, but were able to cut the margin to one goal with 2:03 remaining when a fluky shot from Dustin Byfuglien a the top of the right circle changed direction and beat Brodeur from the high slot to cut New Jersey’s lead to one goal.
But as his records shows, those are the kinds of games the NHL’s goaltending king loves most. Tuesday’s win was his 100th by a 3-2 score.
"It's all about winning, you know,” Brodeur said. “As an organization, as players, it's something that when you're the guy who has the most wins it says a lot about your career. I have been fortunate to play on great teams and this number will be associated with me for the rest of my life."