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Brodeur blanks Wild, two shy of Sawchuk

by Brian Hunter / NHL.com
There wasn't much Martin Brodeur could do for an encore after becoming the winningest goaltender in NHL history earlier this week -- except earn a shutout and step up his assault on a goaltending record held by another of the game's all-time greats.

Brodeur began life after No. 552 by stopping all 35 shots he faced for his 553rd career victory and 101st shutout, and the New Jersey Devils stretched their franchise-record home win streak to 11 in a row with Friday night's 4-0 triumph over the Minnesota Wild at Prudential Center.

Having passed Patrick Roy's win total Tuesday against Chicago, the next chase for Brodeur is Terry Sawchuk's NHL record of 103 shutouts. Despite having made only 20 appearances this season, Brodeur already has five, giving him a chance to tie or break the record in the Devils' final 11 regular-season games.

"This one is so hard -- you go out, and it could have hit a skate today and there would have been a goal," Brodeur said. "It's all about winning. The more you win, the more you have a chance to have a shutout. That's the bottom line. … It's just going to happen, one day we'll tie him and one day we'll beat him."

Patrik Elias, who became the Devils' all-time leading scorer on the same night Brodeur broke Roy's record, scored a pair of goals to reach 30 in a season for the fourth time in his career. Brian Gionta and Johnny Oduya also tallied as New Jersey climbed within three points of Boston for the Eastern Conference lead. The teams meet Sunday afternoon at TD Banknorth Garden.

"This time last year we seemed like we were almost on the decline," said Zach Parise, who assisted on a pair of goals. "This year the mentality's different. We're starting to play some of our best hockey at this time of year, which is always a good sign."

The same can't be said for Minnesota, now 1-2-3 in its last six games. The Wild wasted four power-play opportunities in the second period and a 5-on-3 opportunity that lasted for 49 seconds in the third. They find themselves in a three-way tie for 10th in the Western Conference, three points behind Nashville for the final playoff spot.

"We couldn't come up with nothing," coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We had power plays and a lot of time on it. We didn't build on it. We got nothing."

Minnesota's shortcomings on offense certainly didn't come from a lack of effort -- after managing just four shots on Brodeur during a scoreless first period, the Wild capitalized on New Jersey's frequent trips to the penalty box to take 16 shots in the second and 15 more in the third, but were unable to cash in on their chances.

"I felt good," said Brodeur, who is 9-1-0 since returning from the elbow injury that sidelined him for 50 games. "It started pretty slow with getting only four shots so I was like, 'All right, this is going to be like the old-days hockey,' but get woke up a little bit in the second. They had so many power plays, so I think they manufactured a lot of shots from these opportunities."

By contrast, the Devils only had seven shots in the second; yet, in addition to killing off four penalties against them, they also managed to take a 3-0 lead and chase Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom.

Elias got the first goal at 1:24 thanks in large part to forechecking by Gionta that caused Minnesota defenseman Marek Zidlicky to fling a wild pass from behind his own net. Elias stepped in front to intercept and one-time the puck past Backstrom.

"It was a race for the puck with me and Zidlicky, and I kind of got there at the same time he did and he just kind of threw it out and made a great pass to Patrik," Gionta said.

Gionta didn't pick up a point on the unassisted goal, but he later scored for the third straight game when he finished off a 2-on-1 with Parise at 9:59, diving to convert the pass and sliding into Backstrom after the puck crossed the goal line.

 
 


Oduya ended Backstrom's night 1:03 later with a drive from the point that changed directions on the goalie and went top shelf. Backstrom made eight saves on 11 shots before Josh Harding relieved.

Harding finished with 17 saves but Elias victimized him for a power-play goal 8:32 into the third. Elias, who also holds the Devils' single-season points mark with 96 in 2000-01, is enjoying his best offensive season since scoring 38 goals in 2003-04.

With the win, New Jersey moved back into second in the East, a point ahead of Washington, while still holding two games in hand. The Devils have one game in hand on the Bruins, whom they've beaten twice in three previous meetings this season. That includes a 4-3 overtime win in their prior trip to Boston.

"It's going to be tough, obviously," Oduya said of Sunday's game. "They're really good at home. We played them there last time, it was a really, really well-played game, a tough game, so it's going to be a challenge. But that's fun, especially this time of year. It's going to be a really tough game."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.






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