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Brodeur blanks Avs 4-0 in return from injury

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- This new guy in the New Jersey Devils' net is pretty good, eh?

He's some dude named Martin Brodeur. Ever heard of him?

Oh, wait, that's right. He's that Martin Brodeur. Sorry, it's been four months and 50 games since we've seen good old No. 30 in the Devils' net.

Has it been that long? You couldn't tell Thursday night at the Prudential Center.

Brodeur's assault on the NHL record book continued as he recorded win No. 545 and shutout No. 99 in a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Brodeur, who last played in Atlanta on Nov. 1, is now six victories shy of tying Patrick Roy for the all-time record and four shutouts away from matching Terry Sawchuk's mark for career shutouts.

Even more important, he showed the hockey world he hasn't lost anything. In fact, four months on the shelf may have made Brodeur a more dangerous goalie heading into the stretch run and eventually the playoffs.

"I didn't have any expectations about how I was going to play," Brodeur said. "I know I felt good enough to get back in the lineup. Again, this is one game. We'll see what the next one will be like and how I'm going to feel. It's a matter of playing a lot of games and getting myself back to where I was when I left."

For the first time in a long time, Brodeur admitted he was nervous before the game. He could feel the butterflies knowing all 16,000-plus fans in the building as well as everyone watching at home, including his family and friends, were excited for his return.

He admitted there was pressure, and it was demanding.

"I didn't want to disappoint anybody," he said. "I was excited to come back. My friends and family were all excited -- my parents, too. I just wanted to do well and that's a lot of pressure for just a game. Usually I don't do that, but this is passed now. It was fun, but it was demanding."

On the ice, it didn't look too difficult for Brodeur.

He didn't face his first shot until six minutes had passed in the first period. By that point, the Devils were already up 1-0 thanks to Jamie Langenbrunner's 19th goal of the season, a stoppable slap shot that went though Andrew Raycroft's legs.

"It was nice to score early in the game," Brodeur said.

The Avs had only five shots in the first period, allowing Brodeur to ease back into it. They managed 12 in the second period, including a flurry during a late power play when Milan Hejduk got back-to-back shots on Brodeur and Colorado kept the pressure on.

It was at that point when Devils coach Brent Sutter realized Brodeur was back.

"We had pressure on us for about 30-40 seconds there and they had three scoring opportunities and Marty was very under control at that point in time," Sutter said. "That's when I sensed that he's going to be fine."

Brodeur said he never felt any pain in his left elbow, and it wasn't as if the Avs challenged him there, either. He made only one real glove save, on T.J. Hensick 15:49 into the second period.

He looked good in his crease, especially moving east to west, and never once found himself out of position. He said he used his left arm to prop himself up a few times -- and that was OK, too.

Brodeur did get some help from an old friend about six minutes into the second period when Wojtek Wolski rang a wrister off the right post. He admitted that he was lucky on that shot.

He also withstood the constant screening by Ryan Smyth, who tried to get in front of the goalie every chance he got. Granted, though, there weren't many opportunities considering the way the Devils played in front of Brodeur.

"It's the way we've been doing it all year," said forward Zach Parise, who had a goal and two assists.

"We don't want to make things hard on our goaltender. We take pride in that," Sutter said. "When there were some scoring opportunities there Marty made the saves and under control. He was very poised in the net. There wasn't a lot of work, but when there was he was there."

The Devils gave him some offensive support when Patrik Elias connected on the power play 8:46 into the second period. Parise made it 3-0 with a quick wrister under the bar at 8:06 of the third period, and Travis Zajac added an insurance goal with 3:13 remaining.

Right from the start the Devils felt a different energy in the building. This wasn't just another game.

The fans standing along the glass for warmups cheered loudly when Brodeur led the Devils on to the ice. When he was announced as a starter, he got a nice ovation. Every time Brodeur touched the puck in the first period, the 16,107 in the building cheered.


When he made that big save on Hejduk with Smyth in front, the fans began loudly chanting, "Marty, Marty, Marty." It's a familiar sound in the Prudential Center.

The buzz for the shutout really started with just under two minutes left when those same "Marty" chants picked up even more steam.

"Even in warmups, just him coming on the ice with everyone cheering, it felt great to be a part of that," said center Travis Zajac, who had a goal and two assists. "Every save he made everyone was cheering. It's great to see because he's a fantastic guy, a great leader and a guy the guys on this team want to be around."

Colorado defenseman Adam Foote wasn't surprised that the Brodeur and his teammates were primed for the game.

"I don't think we gave him a good test, that's for sure," Foote said. "He is going to make the saves we gave him. You knew he was going to make those. I don't think we made it too difficult for him."

However, Brodeur did have to do some work in the final minute to get his 99th shutout.
"I know I felt good enough to get back in the lineup. Again, this is one game. We'll see what the next one will be like and how I'm going to feel. It's a matter of playing a lot of games and getting myself back to where I was when I left." -- Martin Brodeur

The Avs had their top line of Smyth, Hejduk and Paul Stastny on the ice against Jay Pandolfo, John Madden and David Clarkson. They were getting good pressure, forcing Pandolfo to take a tripping penalty with 36.4 seconds left.

Brodeur made a strong save on Cody McCormick with less than 20 seconds to go. He lost his stick in the process as Colorado kept the pressure on, but Brodeur got it back and with four seconds to play the Devils cleared the puck into the neutral zone one last time.

The horn sounded and the shutout was preserved.

Just like old times.

"He's got that competitive nature that every game he's going to come in and play his best, and tonight he didn't miss a beat," Zajac said. "He looked as good as ever."

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