Slowly but surely, Martin Brodeur appears to have overcome a rocky start and is playing like a future Hall of Famer once again.
After finally recording his first shutout of the season, Brodeur will try to extend the New Jersey Devils' winning streak to a season-high four games as they meet the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.
Last season, Brodeur recorded a personal best with 12 shutouts as part of an NHL single-season record 48 wins en route to winning his third Vezina Trophy. Over the first six weeks of this season, however, Brodeur struggled as he went 5-10-1 and gave up at least four goals in five games.
In his last three starts, though, Brodeur is looking more like his old self. Last Saturday, Brodeur defeated Philadelphia to join Patrick Roy as the only goalies with 500 career wins, and on Wednesday he stopped 25 shots in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh.
On Friday, Brodeur turned aside 22 shots in a 3-0 win at Atlanta for his 93rd career shutout and first since Feb. 27.
"Marty has been playing great," New Jersey forward Zach Parise said. "That's three in a row he's played awesome for us. We need that to win games,"
With his next shutout, Brodeur will tie George Hainsworth for second all-time. Terry Sawchuk posted an NHL-record 103 shutouts over 21 seasons from 1949-70.
Brodeur, who's played all 15 NHL seasons with New Jersey (10-10-2), made 21 saves in the Devils' 6-1 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 31. But in his last 10 starts at the St. Pete Times Forum since January 2002, he's only 2-5-2 with one tie despite a 2.06 goals-against average.
Jamie Langenbrunner assisted on all three goals in the win over the Thrashers, giving him five in his last two games. Langenbrunner, who missed the first 17 games of the season due to a sports hernia, has just two goals and two assists in 11 games at Tampa.
After a season-high five-game winning streak, Tampa Bay (10-10-2) lost to Carolina 4-3 on Friday. Goals by Paul Ranger, Vaclav Propsal and Vincent Lecavalier gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead going into the third period, but Johan Holmqvist allowed three goals less than seven minutes apart, dropping them to their third loss in a row.
"We play really good for part of the game," Lecavalier said. "As soon as we make a mistake, it ends up in our net. It's a bad loss for us. There's no excuses."
Lecavalier also had an assist and leads the league with 36 points. He's scored three goals against the Devils this season to give him four and three assists in a four-game points streak against them. The top overall pick in the 1998 draft also needs two assists for 300 in his career.
Martin St. Louis, who had two assists on Friday, also has a four-game points streak versus the Devils. St. Louis has two goals and five assists during his run.