-- New Jersey Devils
forward Ilya Kovalchuk
was quick to credit one person when asked to explain his sudden impact in shootouts this season.
Surprise! It was goalie Martin Brodeur
"I was never really good in shootouts and last year, I was struggling," Kovalchuk said. "This year, I talked to Marty and he actually told me a couple of secrets being a goalie. He told me what dangles I should take to get more options, and it's working for sure."
Kovalchuk set a single-season NHL record with his seventh shootout winner on Thursday to back a 28-save performance through regulation and overtime by Brodeur to give the Devils a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche
at the Prudential Center.
Brodeur, who notched his second shutout of the season and 118th of his career, was making his third straight start and sixth in the last seven games. It was the fourth career shutout for Brodeur against the Avalanche.
Colorado goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere
stopped 33 shots for his second shutout of the season and the second of his career against New Jersey. But he was beaten by Kovalchuk and Zach Parise
in the tiebreaker, while Brodeur denied Milan Hejduk
and Peter Mueller
The Devils, who improved to 11-3 in the tiebreaker, remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 87 points through 71 games. The Avalanche, who fall to 9-2 in shootouts, are among the top eight in the Western Conference with 81 points but have just nine games remaining.
"To get a point here in a game like this, against a good team, is huge for us so we'll take it and move forward now," Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog
As the first shooter, Kovalchuk slammed home his League-leading 10th shootout goal in 12 chances, before Parise followed with his seventh. Kovalchuk broke Adrian Aucoin's mark of six deciding goals in the tie-breaker set in 2009-10 with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"I never think before I go … I take what the goalie gives me and try to beat him," Kovalchuk said. "The shootout is an important thing in hockey now and those 11 extra points make a difference."
Brodeur was asked what he said to Kovalchuk that has transformed him into such a catalyst one-on-one.
"He has a lot of skills; you can't ad-lib all your life, you have to have a little plan," he said. "I helped a little in the way he skates towards the goalie … that was it and he's doing really well."
The match between Brodeur and Giguere brought back memories of the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals when Giguere's Anaheim Mighty Ducks took the Devils to a seven-game Final before New Jersey won its third Stanley Cup. While Brodeur notched three shutouts in the series, it was Giguere who garnered the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
"That '03 series went through my mind a little bit," Brodeur said. "We had good battles in that series and definitely under different circumstances. But it was a fun game (on Thursday). We both had to make good saves at critical times."
Both goalies came up big in the third, but Giguere was called upon to stop 15 shots as the rigors of two games in as many nights seemed to slowly take its toll on the Avalanche -- Colorado came to Newark after a 5-4 shootout win at Buffalo on Wednesday.
"It was the second game of a back-to-back, so we obviously were a little sluggish coming in," Landeskog said. "They controlled the game but we worked ourselves back into it and I think Giguere held the fort … he was great."
The game certainly had a playoff feel to it.
"You could sense their urgency where they are in the standings … even for us," Parise said. "They are points we can't afford to give away and we wouldn't give away. It was back and forth and a good-skating game."
At the 7:31 mark, a screened Giguere stopped rookie Adam Henrique
off a nifty turnaround backhand from the left hash to keep the game scoreless. David Clarkson
had a golden opportunity denied with just under two minutes remaining when his backhander while skating through the crease was swept away by Giguere's stick.
Clarkson expects every game down the stretch to match Thursday's intensity.
"I think for the rest of the season it will be that way," he said. "Teams are fighting and we have to keep climbing and keep winning to push teams, so every game the rest of the season will be high intensity; that playoff mentality."
Landeskog had a good opportunity denied by Brodeur 4:45 into the second after taking a feed in the slot and releasing a snap shot that was turned away.
Less than five minutes later, chants of "Marty," "Marty" echoed throughout the arena following a right pad save on Hejduk and another on ensuing rebound off the stick of Erik Johnson
from the right circle. He turned back Cody McLeod
with his blocker a few seconds later on a sequence when the Devils were caught on the line change.
"Marty made some key saves early in the game and Giguere stood on his head in the third period," Kovalchuk said. "We had a couple of good chances and missed the net a couple of times (Giguere) stopped the puck a lot."
Kovalchuk wasn't overly concerned with the fact the Devils have now been shut out two straight games -- they lost 3-0 in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
"I'm not really concerned … we got two points," he said. "Our next game is against Pittsburgh (on Saturday in Newark). It's a divisional game, and we'll have to score."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale