Craig Anderson said it was "an honor" just to stand on the same sheet of ice as surefire Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur
But it was the Colorado Avalanche
goalie who was taking bows and first star honors Saturday following his exceptional 37-save performance in a 3-1 win over the New Jersey Devils
at the Pepsi Center.
"Just being on the ice surface with a Hall of Famer there, it's just an honor to be playing against him," Anderson said. "They have a great team over there and he made some big saves to give them a chance to win.
"For us, we got a couple (goals) early, which was good. We continued to pressure. We had a couple opportunities to score and he made some big saves."
The game wasn't decided until Chris Stewart passed to Wojtek Wolski for a chip shot into an empty net with 12.3 seconds remaining after the Avalanche had killed off a Devils power play that included a six-on-four skating advantage with Brodeur on the bench for an extra attacker.
Anderson made seven saves as the Devils buzzed around his net with Cody McLeod
in the penalty box for high-sticking Vladimir Zharkov
before Wolski relieved the pressure with his first goal in 11 games.
"They were going to do everything they can to get that game-tying goal," Anderson said. "They're going to throw everything at the net. Our guys did a great job allowing me to see the puck and clean up some of the rebounds and make some big blocks. I couldn't do it without the guys in front of me. Without them, we don't win this game."
Devils coach Jacques Lemaire said his team lacked "energy" until the third period, when it outshot the Avalanche 15-6. The Devils have lost back-to-back games in regulation for only the second time this season.
"I would say we played good the last few minutes of the game," Lemaire said. "We pushed a little harder and I guess we had a little more energy than we had the whole game.
"I think our mind was not there tonight. We did not have good energy. I could see it right away; they showed me right there their mind wasn't there."
The Devils lost forward Patrik Elias
to an apparent head injury 38 seconds into the second period. Elias fell awkwardly into the boards following a clean check by Avalanche defenseman Ryan Wilson
Elias was strapped to a backboard and wheeled off the ice. He was examined at an area hospital and was to fly back to New Jersey with the team Saturday night before being evaluated further on Sunday.
The Avalanche took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Stewart and rookie T.J. Galiardi, whose goal during a four-on-four situation at 18:32 turned out to be the game-winner.
Rookie Matt Duchene
, who turned 19 on Saturday, won a faceoff and John-Michael Liles passed to Galiardi in the right circle for a shot that zipped by Brodeur's right arm.
"It's pretty nice to score on that guy," Galiardi said. "I don't know how many times we're going to get to play him, but I'll take it. I'm happy about it."
Stewart, who has four goals in the past six games, was at the edge of the crease when he redirected Paul Stastny
's pass into an open corner.
The Devils drew within 2-1 at 1:55 of the third period on Rob Niedermayer's first goal in 12 games. Niedermayer had a step on Liles as he skated down the middle. He accepted a lead pass from Jay Pandolfo and slid the puck by Anderson.
It was the only shot to elude Anderson on this day.
"We ran into a good goalie," said New Jersey's Brian Rolston, who had a game-high seven shots. "We let them into the game in the first period. We were sleeping a little bit in the first period. You can't spot a team like that two goals. They're a good team and they have good goaltending. We were getting great shots on them at the end of the game and he was making big saves."
Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said Anderson, who has won a career-high 23 games, has been a calming influence on teammates throughout the season.
"No question," Sacco said. "He's been outstanding for us all season. There is that factor that if you do make a mistake, knowing that we have Andy back there makes the guys more comfortable. He's been doing that all year for us."
The Avalanche have won three games in a row, with all three victories coming against division leaders -- they won shootouts in Buffalo and Calgary.
"I don't think we're surprising anyone anymore," Sacco said. "Maybe at the start of the season we were, but that's gone by the wayside. Teams are ready for us, just like we try to be ready for every team we play. We're not sneaking up on anyone anymore."
A knee ailment prevented Avalanche right wing Milan Hejduk
from dressing. Hejduk, who is listed as day-to-day, didn't feel right after taking the warmup. He missed five games earlier this season because of a knee problem.