Dating to Nov. 7, Brodeur had played 1,132 of a possible 1,155 minutes (98.0 percent) over a 19-game span entering Saturday’s game in Atlanta. Four times during that run, he started both games when the Devils played on back-to-back nights and came out 7-1 in those contests.
So maybe it was no surprise that Brodeur started on Saturday against the Thrashers after downing Ottawa 4-2 the night before at home. And while Brodeur said he did not consider resting, his luck appeared to run out in an uncharacteristic first period against Atlanta in which he allowed three goals on six shots and was pulled for the first time this season at intermission.
As it was, Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said he did not fault Brodeur on any of the goals. The move worked out, as the NHL-leading Devils rallied with Yann Danis making 20 saves in only his fourth appearance of the season in a 5-4 victory.
"I thought he was fine on the first two," said Lemaire, adding that he thought Brodeur was interfered with on the third goal by Thrashers’ rookie Evander Kane, who put his stick between the goalie’s legs, preventing him from going left to right to stop a one-timed shot by Pavel Kubina from the left-wing circle.
The first goal was somewhat fluky. Atlanta’s Christoph Schubert, standing against the boards behind his own net, flipped the puck high into the air and it bounced just on the other side of the red line. Thrasher Ron Hainsey poked it, still bouncing, past Colin White, collected it in the Devils’ zone and maneuvered past Mike Mottau and then beat Brodeur with a wrist shot at 12:45.
The second goal was a breakaway by Nik Antropov, as Ilya Kovalchuk’s pass threaded the needle of Devils’ defensemen White and Mottau, setting Antropov in alone for the goal at 14:30.
New Jersey left the period trailing 3-1 despite outshooting Atlanta 24-6.
"Oh, when you get scored on it’s hard to feel good about it," Brodeur said, "but the way we were playing if I was going to be able to stay in there I think we were going to get to [Thrashers’ goalie Ondrej Pavelec]. He played well, but he was giving us a lot of opportunities, rebounds and stuff, and it was just matter of time to get back in the game."
Brodeur did his share of history making while playing in the Devils’ last 20 games. On Friday, he passed Patrick Roy’s NHL record of 1,029 games played. On Dec. 7, he tied Terry Sawchuk’s NHL record of 103 career shutouts with a 3-0 win over Buffalo.
He is still chasing that shutout mark and it figured to be difficult coming against the Thrashers, with their sharpshooters and a high-scoring attack that ranks second in the NHL in goals-per-game (3.21).
So after surrendering the three goals, he gave way to Danis, who had not played since being pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots in the first period of a Nov. 21 start at Dallas.
Certainly, being Brodeur’s backup must be one of the most challenging mental tasks in the NHL, as a goalie must stay sharp while playing not much more than once per month. Danis, who played a career-high 31 games last season with the New York Islanders, made only three appearances in the team’s first 33 games.
"It hasn’t been easy but I’ve been working hard in practice and when I came in I felt really calm," Danis said. "We played really well in the first 10 minutes of the [second] period and got the lead and that really helped with my confidence."
The Devils scored three times on seven shots to claim the lead in the first 10 minutes of the second period after Danis entered the game while outshooting Atlanta 31-8 at that point.
"I feel like, especially at this level, you always have to prove yourself – unless you get to the point where Marty is. It feels good to get the win and show the guys that I’m ready no matter what happens and if I have to go in they can play with confidence." -- Yann Danis
"Definitely," he said. "I feel like, especially at this level, you always have to prove yourself – unless you get to the point where Marty is. It feels good to get the win and show the guys that I’m ready no matter what happens and if I have to go in they can play with confidence."
Danis said he has gotten to the point where he does not even anticipate making a start, even if the Devils are playing on back-to-back days.
Brodeur said Danis’ performance was “big.”
"He doesn’t have an opportunity to play a lot, so this is a good situation for him to get in, especially the way we were playing," Brodeur said. "For him to get in there and play well and shut door and get a win, like I said, when you don’t play for a while knowing you’re going to play a full game sometimes makes it hard. You get nervous. He just jumped right in there and it helped him out he played well."