WEST ORANGE, N.J. (AP) - Don't blame Martin Brodeur.
The Devils face a 3-0 deficit in their Eastern Conference playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, but no one is faulting the All-Star goaltender for New Jersey's predicament.
"As far as Marty goes, we can't ask more than what we have gotten from him," Devils coach and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Thursday after a team meeting at their training facility. "For anyone to think something else, I don't have the adjective for it."
The backbone of the Devils' Stanley Cup championship teams in 1995, 2000 and 2003, Brodeur took some criticism after a 3-2 loss in Game 3 on Wednesday night, a setback that put New Jersey on the verge of being swept in the second round after sweeping the New York Rangers in the first.
Game 4 of this surprising Eastern Conference semifinal - one which started with New Jersey riding a 15-game winning streak - will be played at the Continental Airlines Arena on Saturday.
While Brodeur didn't have a chance on the Hurricanes' last two goals in Game 3, the first one by Matt Cullen raised some eyebrows. The long backhander not only caught the goaltender off guard, but it also wiped out the momentum Sergei Brylin provided New Jersey with an early goal.
Devils center Scott Gomez said any criticism of Brodeur was dead wrong, noting Cullen made a great shot after skating past three New Jersey defenders.
"I have two Stanley Cup rings because of the guy. He comes through," Gomez said.
Brodeur is comfortable with the way he has played since a 6-0 blowout in Game 1 last weekend. He was outstanding in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 2, a game decided on a fluky bounce off the skate of Carolina defenseman Niklas Wallin.
"The second game was as good a game as I have played in a series this year," Brodeur said Thursday. "I just didn't get the outcome on my side. Yesterday was a tough one as far as not getting the breaks and scoring more than two goals a game.
"It makes it tough," the 34-year-old added. "Saturday I just plan on shutting them down. That's what I want to do."
If the Devils plan to end the Hurricanes' seven-game postseason winning streak, they will need to do a lot better job of helping Brodeur. They can't allow the Hurricanes to set up shop in front of their goaltender and they can't keep making mistakes and taking penalties.
Defenseman Richard Matvichuk's giveaway set up the Hurricanes' second goal and a four-minute high sticking penalty to Jamie Langenbrunner led to Rod Brind'Amour's game winner late in the second period. It was Carolina's eighth goal in 18 power play chances in the series.
"He's one of the best goaltenders in the league and we all know that," Brind'Amour said. "We're not really focusing on him. This series is not about him but about what we have to do."
In this series, Brodeur has been overshadowed by Carolina's Cam Ward. With the win on Wednesday, the rookie became the second NHL goalie to win his first seven postseason starts. Tiny Thompson did it for Boston in 1929-30.
Since Ward replaced Martin Gerber early in Game 2 against the Canadiens, Carolina has allowed just 12 goals.
"We have to make it harder for him," Brodeur said of Ward. "He's a butterfly goalie who plays his style as good as anyone now. He is just square to the puck and he's making saves."
That's exactly what Brodeur needs to do, or else the Devils' season will end very soon.
"The bottom line is we have to make them beat us," Brodeur said. "We haven't done that the first three games. If we're able to do that, who knows? We've been able to put a lot of good streaks together. We're going to need to pull off something pretty amazing if we're going to pull this off."