NEWARK, N.J. -- He was 22 years old when he reached the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time; 23 when he won the Stanley Cup for the first time.
Martin Brodeur is 40 now. No, seriously, he's 40.
Patrik Elias said.
Seventeen years after winning his first championship, Brodeur is going back to the big show in search of his fourth. He made 33 saves Friday night to lift the Devils to a 3-2 overtime win against the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, putting New Jersey into the Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
Brodeur has won the Stanley Cup three times since losing to the Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals -- setting 18 NHL records, including most wins, shutouts, games played and minutes played, along the way. But at 40 years old, getting the Devils to the Final with 12 wins, a .923 save percentage and 2.04 goals-against average should at least move into a high position on his list of his greatest achievements.
"You guys were talking about him retiring soon and right now he's in the Stanley Cup Final, and he obviously gives us the best chance every night to win those games," added Elias, who has been through this with Brodeur three times before. "Hat's off to him."
Brodeur got the better of Vezina and Hart Trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist in the Eastern Conference Finals. He'll have to get the better of another Vezina candidate, Jonathan Quick, if the Devils are to win the Final.
His teammates have no doubt that he's capable of it.
"He's a legend," forward Alexei Ponikarovsky said. "To be at this level and still playing the same way he played when he was young is just incredible. It just makes you admire him more."
RANGERS VS. DEVILS
Henrique's OT tally sends Devils to FinalBy Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
The New Jersey Devils are heading to their fifth Stanley Cup Final since losing to the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals 18 years ago. Adam Henrique's goal 1:03 into overtime was the difference in a 3-2 victory in Game 6 of the Eastern finals on Friday at Prudential Center. READ MORE ›
Brodeur still lists losing the 2001 Stanley Cup Final as one of his greatest disappointments -- only because he wanted to win it that year for the guys who had never gotten to lift the trophy, guys like John Vanbiesbrouck and Turner Stevenson.
After making 33 saves on Friday to get the Devils back to the Final for the first time since 2003, Brodeur said he's still going strong because of the excitement he gets out of watching guys like Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Peter Harrold, Stephen Gionta, David Clarkson and others.
"For me, the stage of my career where I'm at, I think the beauty of still playing hockey is watching these guys grow into superstars," Brodeur said. "It's great for me to -- just to see everything unfold for these guys. Makes it a lot fun. Makes it worth coming to the rink every day, seeing how they are how and how they're enjoying themselves and the ride we're having right now."
But Brodeur is thoroughly enjoying this magic carpet ride as well. Maybe it's because he knows it might be his last. Maybe because he knows he's defying the odds, especially after he had to miss a big chunk of the 2008-09 season and a piece of 2010-11 with injuries.
"I know what I can do, try to compete as hard as I can every night and try to give these guys a chance to win hockey games," Brodeur said. "And they've been scoring a lot of goals for me in the playoffs so far. It's been great, regardless of beating Lundqvist. I mean, it's definitely nice to compete against the top goalies. But again, I'm not playing against any goalies. I'm playing for my team and against the opponent that we're playing against."
The latest opponent is one that Brodeur admittedly hates. The Rangers have made his blood boil since '94.
"There's only one guy that likes beating the Rangers more than Marty, and that's [general manager] Lou [Lamoriello]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "I mean, hey, these guys have been through this rivalry for 20 years."
Beating this rival to get to the Stanley Cup Final is more than just a small side note to Brodeur.
"Winning against them on the big stage, not just for me, but I think for the fans of New Jersey, the people that are supporting us and always taking a second seat to these guys for whatever reason, now they gotta be pretty happy going to work and going to school and doing all their things that they do," Brodeur said. "I know from some of the messages I got throughout this playoff series, we made a lot of people real happy right now by beating them.
"I don't know if they're going to give us credit, but it's 1-1."
It is because Brodeur was at his best when the Devils needed him to be. His performance in the third period of a 2-2 game was vintage Brodeur, with his eight saves and incredible poke checks to thwart opportunities for Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik.
"When it got 2-2, there were half a dozen opportunities where the game was on the line, just like Game 7 in Florida in overtime when they took it to us," DeBoer said. "I mean, he has a calming influence. He finds a way to make a save at the right time to give us a chance."
Brodeur said he treated the third period as if it were overtime.
"We were in a position that the next goal is going to win," Brodeur said. "Every save was important."
But it didn't look like he felt any pressure even though he was under a lot of it.
Brodeur was having fun in that final 20 minutes. Heck, he's been having a blast since Game 4 against Florida, when he made 26 saves after getting pulled in Game 3. Brodeur made 43 saves in the Devils' double-OT win in Game 7 at Florida; 27 saves in their series-clinching win at Philadelphia in Game 5; and now 33 saves to beat the Rangers in six.
"He was outstanding," Clarkson said of Brodeur's performance Friday. "All playoffs he has kept us in games, stood on his head. It's amazing to see what he's doing right now. Our bench just feeds off of him. He's one of our big, big leaders in here."
He has been for 17 years, since he got the better of the Red Wings in a four-game sweep in the Stanley Cup Final. Next up was Dallas in 2000; that one took six games. Colorado beat Brodeur and the Devils in seven the following year, but Brodeur and the Devils beat Anaheim in 2003 to win the Cup again.
The Kings are on deck, and Brodeur is still turning back the clock.
"It's the same feeling," Elias said when asked if Brodeur is playing like he did 10-plus years ago. "You know he's going to make those saves. Even there are games when he maybe makes a mistake, but it doesn't faze him. We know it and that's a great feeling to have. He's in a zone out there."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl