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Brodeur struggles again in loss to Pens

by Brian Compton
March 11, 2006.

That was the only time in his Hall of Fame career that New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had allowed six goals in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It happened again on Wednesday night.

Brodeur -- who will be recognized on Friday for becoming the League's all-time winningest goalie -- saw his winless streak hit six in an eye-opening 6-1 loss to the Pens at Mellon Arena. Brodeur hasn't won in six starts (0-5-1) since going 9-1-0 following his return from a biceps injury.

''It wasn't easy for anybody. You could see the puck had eyes all night,'' Brodeur said. ''It was just the way it went all night. I just wanted to get it out of the system and stay in the net.''

Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard, as Matt Cooke and Bill Guerin scored 36 seconds apart in the opening period to help the Pens grab a 2-0 lead. Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal scored just 13 seconds apart in the second, extending Pittsburgh's lead to 5-1.

''We wanted to jump on them early, they had lost a few in a row there, and make it so they can't go into their shutdown mode when they get in the lead,'' Pens defenseman Mark Eaton said. ''We carried the play in the first five or 10 minutes, got a couple of goals, and never allowed them to get much momentum.''

It was an impressive way for the Penguins to finish their franchise-record eight-game homestand, which saw them go 6-1-1. Pittsburgh also improved to 13-1-2 since Feb. 25, when it was in danger of missing the playoffs. With Wednesday's win, the Pens moved into a tie for fourth place with Philadelphia, though Pittsburgh has played one more game.

The No. 4 seed gets home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

''That's the thing we're trying to chase right now -- we're not worrying about people tying to catch us, we're trying to catch Philly,'' said goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made 24 saves and even had an assist. ''We want to keep winning. That would be huge, home-ice advantage.''

Brian Gionta cut the Pens' lead to 2-1 with his 19th goal of the season at 11:22 of the first, but Evgeni Malkin restored Pittsburgh's two-goal cushion when he capitalized on a hooking penalty on New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner with 2:49 remaining.

Crosby scored a power-play goal of his own 9:35 into the second -- just 13 seconds before Staal beat Brodeur with a backhander. Crosby's tally was his 30th of the season.

''We wanted to take advantage of it, we said that from the start, it was a good scenario but we still had some games to win,'' Crosby said. ''We did a great job here, now we've got to keep going."

Devils coach Brent Sutter wasn't happy with some of his team's decision-making.

"It was a 2-1 game and we took two bad penalties," Sutter said. "You take a penalty 200 feet from your own net, and then you take a penalty after a whistle and bang, it's a 4-1 hockey game. We were playing OK after that."

"It wasn't easy for anybody. You could see the puck had eyes all night. It was just the way it went all night. I just wanted to get it out of the system and stay in the net." -- Martin Brodeur
In somewhat of a surprise, Sutter elected to leave Brodeur in for the entire game. Brodeur stopped 31 of 37 shots.

"It crossed my mind, but it's a situation where there's some things that Marty has to fight through, too," Sutter said. "He is part of the team. There's some things in his game that he has to get through like everybody else. We're in this all together and we have to fight through it together."

Their next chance to do that comes on Friday, when New Jersey hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sutter's club hasn't won since it blanked the Minnesota Wild way back on March 20.   

"It's a tough thing to go through," Sutter said. "We're dealing with it. It's a hand we dealt ourselves, and we've got to make sure we handle it the right way. No one said this was just going to turn around like that. We've got to keep pushing through. You've got to do it as a group. It's not going to be one guy or two guys."

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

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