-- As soon as the clock high above the Prudential Center ice struck zero, Martin Brodeur
learned what the view from the top really looks like. It's exhilarating.
Brodeur's three Stanley Cup rings and four Vezina trophies would suggest he's already a Hall of Famer. But on St. Patrick's Day with spring in the air in North Jersey, the Devils' superstar goalie improved upon greatness with a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks
, his 552nd victory in a career that still has a few more years to go.
"It's kind of hard for any athlete to think that he's going to be able to get a record like that, especially for goaltending," an elated Brodeur said in a crowded post-game news conference. "I think this is what the ultimate record is, I think in my mind with having the most wins. I never thought that it was going to be possible, but definitely along the way, getting closer and closer, I knew it was going to happen eventually."
Win No. 552 came over the young Blackhawks. It came over a rival goalie, Nikolai Khabibulin
, who has been one of the few that has gotten the best of Brodeur in his career. It came nine straight and (all-but-one) superb games after returning from an injury that shelved him for more than four months.
"At this stage of his career," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville
said of Brodeur, "he's as good as ever."
Most important, though, win No. 552 came in front of his adoring father -- who was capturing history through his lens throughout the night -- his children, wife, brothers, closest friends and in front of 17,625 fans who lined Edison Street hours before the game to gobble up the remaining tickets and chanted "Mar-ty, Mar-ty " all night long.
"It's been kind of chaotic for me the last few days, but it was an awesome night, a great reception from the fans and my teammates," Brodeur said. "Pretty cool, you know. I thought it was pretty cool in Montreal (Saturday night), and this topped it. It was awesome."
Brodeur didn't have much chance to relax Tuesday night. Even though the Devils took a 2-0 lead just 6:01 into the game and scored again to make it 3-0 with 3:04 to play in the second period, the Blackhawks didn't stop coming.
Brodeur had to stop 14 shots in the first period and was close to taking a shutout into the second intermission until Cam Barker
's rocket from the point found its way past Brodeur with 2:32 to play in the period. It was the Hawks 26th shot of the game. They finished with 32.
Then, with the clock ticking down toward two minutes remaining in the third, Hawks wing Dustin Byfuglien
found the back of the net, putting everybody in the building on edge. Even Brodeur admitted he was a bit nervous, and that's totally out of character.
"With 10 minutes left I'm like, 'All right, this is going to probably happen here,' and I was kind of looking at the clock," Brodeur said. "I was a clock-watcher a little bit, but everything fell when two minutes came and they scored. 'All right, I've got two minutes to kill.' So it made it tough a little bit to spend the last few minutes, but we got it done."
With 8.9 seconds left, Brodeur was looking to his left as John Madden
and Jonathan Toews
lined up for a faceoff in the near circle. Khabibulin was on the bench, so this was a 6-on-5 advantage for the Hawks, and Toews won the draw.
snapped off a 23-foot shot on goal that Brodeur kicked into the corner as deftly as he has done so many times. He left no chance for a rebound and the crowd roared as the clock finally drained to all zeroes.
"The last minute … seemed like it took forever," Devils coach Brent Sutter
Brodeur leaped into the air like a little boy and was immediately enveloped by his joyful teammates. The crowd stood chanting as Brodeur took off his mask, threw on a Devils' cap and gave the first of many waves.
"It's finally over," Brodeur said after being asked to describe that moment. "I think the road to it was pretty easy to a certain extent. I didn't have to have the hiccups of losing a couple of games and have it in the back of my mind. And that was one thing I feared a little bit. When I heard the buzzer, I was like, 'Wow, it's over now.' This is good."
Actually, the hard part was just about to start.
The ice crew brought him a pair of scissors so he could cut the net off the goal he defended in the first and third periods, but Brodeur looked like he was having a hard time with it, so backup goalie Kevin Weekes
skated over to lend a hand.
"It's kind of hard for any athlete to think that he's going to be able to get a record like that, especially for goaltending. I think this is what the ultimate record is, I think in my mind with having the most wins. I never thought that it was going to be possible, but definitely along the way, getting closer and closer, I knew it was going to happen eventually." -- Martin Brodeur
Brodeur didn't just want a piece of the net, he wanted the whole thing. That's what Roy did after he broke Terry Sawchuk
's longtime record of 447 wins in Oct. 18, 2000, and this was his turn to do the same as his former idol.
He just could have used some sharper clippers.
"It's definitely harder than I think," Brodeur said with a smile when asked about trying to cut the netting off the goal. "These basketball players, it's only a little net. This is a big net. I had the help of a couple of my teammates. That was nice of them."
Captain Jamie Langenbrunner
skated over to Brodeur and told him to go take a lap, that the rest of the guys would handle cutting the net. He took off and went around the ice, waving incessantly as he tried to locate his family in a suite above the Zamboni entrance.
"I've done it (take a lap) with the Stanley Cup on top of my head as a team thing, but that was really on a personal thing and it was pretty cool," Brodeur said. "It was definitely a great moment for me."
Once back inside the dressing room, Brodeur was greeted by his family, including his father, Denis Sr.
"Like any good photographer he didn't want to miss taking pictures with me and that winning puck," Brodeur said. "That was his main goal after the hug."
Brodeur left for the showers and emerged 10 minutes later clean and suited up, necktie and all, so he could meet NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in the hallway for a few congratulatory words. He did two interviews before making his way to the podium.
He looked like a king walking to his throne.
"A record like this speaks for itself," Sutter said. "He's got the most wins of all time by any goaltender that's ever played the game."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org