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Brodeur gets win No. 550 as Devils whip Coyotes

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- Martin Brodeur grew up with pictures of Patrick Roy adorning the walls of his bedroom inside his family's modest home in St. Leonard, Que., a Montreal suburb 20 minutes from the old Forum.

Brodeur vividly remembers a June afternoon in 1986 when he cut school to ride his bicycle down to the corner of St. Catherine and Peel to see one of his goaltending idols parade the Stanley Cup through downtown Montreal.

"Like any kid, my dream was to play in the NHL," Brodeur told earlier this season. "Seeing our favorite team hoist the Cup in downtown Montreal, that's where everything started for me."

Saturday night, it could all come full circle only a few steps from that very same street corner.

With the New Jersey Devils' 5-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at the Prudential Center on Thursday night, Brodeur moved within one victory of tying Roy for the most wins in NHL history.

"I try not to think about all the Xs and Os of the situation I'm going to be in," Brodeur said after collecting win No. 550. "I just want to go out and have a good practice (Friday), see my friends and family (Friday) night and get myself ready for Saturday."

Win No. 550 came in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 14,578 in downtown Newark.

No. 551 could come in front of Roy and a full house of 21,273 fans at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal -- a short walk from the corner of St. Catherine and Peel, a short drive from St. Leonard.

Millions more will be watching on CBC and RDS in Canada as well as the NHL Network and MSG Plus back in the United States. It could be the biggest one-man show this season as Brodeur tries to tie one of the hockey's most revered records.

"It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere, but for me I expect that there and I'll try to be the same," Brodeur said. "I don't think I'm going to change much. I think we'll definitely monitor what I have to do so it's not too open for me to be distracted. At the end of the day, it's still just a game. It's about me winning a game, our team winning a game and if we do that I'll write history in the books by that win."

With a win Saturday night, Brodeur would be going for sole possession of the record Tuesday back in Newark against the Chicago Blackhawks. Win No. 552 would put him alone on top, but throughout this entire chase, Brodeur has had his mind focused on one number, Roy's 551.

When he realized it was a possibility that he could tie the mark in Montreal, the motivation and the pressure grew. The weight he feels to win in Montreal can't be measured, but Brodeur is enjoying every moment of his assault on the record books.

"I'm happy that I'll have a chance to tie it in Montreal. It just adds up to the story," Brodeur said. "You couldn't ask for a better script to a certain extent."

Asked if he is being peppered with ticket requests, Brodeur said no.

After winning his third game since returning from a four-month absence due to elbow surgery, Brodeur called up his friends and family and told them to go buy tickets because it was starting to look like Montreal could be the place where he ties the record or breaks it. The possibility of breaking the mark in Montreal disappeared with a 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday, but two wins since then have him on the brink of tying the mark.

"I'm happy to hopefully live it with my friends and family back home," he added.

Win No. 550 came rather easily for Brodeur.

The Devils grabbed a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game when Zach Parise scored his 40th of the season, beating Phoenix rookie Josh Tordjman, a Montreal native playing his second NHL game.

The lead grew to 2-0 three minutes into the game on John Madden's goal off a beautiful feed from Johnny Oduya. Brodeur lost his bid for shutout No. 101 -- he remains three shy of Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 -- when Scottie Upshall beat him with a power-play goal at 9:35, but the Devils kept pouring it on.

Dainius Zubrus and Patrik Elias each scored in the second period and Travis Zajac added his 19th of the season in the third before Steve Reinprecht got a late goal for the Coyotes. Brodeur faced 28 shots and stopped 26 of them to keep the Devils within six points of the Boston Bruins for first in the Eastern Conference.

"I felt good (Thursday). I felt right on top of my game," Brodeur said. "I was able to stay focused and make some good saves. It helps when guys are scoring goals and you don't have to worry about the next goal being a game changer."

Now that the Brodeur Watch is moving to Saturday in Montreal, it will be omnipresent. The eyes of La Belle Province, not to mention the entire hockey world, will be fixated on Brodeur and his quest to equal and then surpass Roy, who was once considered the greatest goalie ever.

"That's what is great for the game. That's what makes the game special," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "There are times throughout the year, certain occurrences that are going to happen, that make our game such a great game. What is going on here is a great thing."

Sutter won't like seeing reporters, both French and English, huddled outside the Devils' team hotel, but it could happen Friday when they arrive in town. Brodeur will find himself standing in front of a cavalcade of journalists Saturday morning.

"It will definitely be a media circus there, there's no question about that," Devils forward Brian Rolston told Thursday night.

Habs' fans will enter the building Saturday night wearing their bleu, blanc et rouge, but don't be surprised if more than a few find themselves rooting for Brodeur anyway.

He's one of them.

"I expected (the attention), but until you live it you just don't know," he said. "Hopefully we'll get it done as quickly as possible so we can put it past us. But, it is fun. I'm enjoying it. There is no doubt about that."

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