NEWARK, N.J. -- Whether Martin Brodeur is still a member of the only organization he's played for in his professional career after the NHL Trade Deadline passes Wednesday, he won't soon forget the 684th victory of his career.
Stephen Gionta made the victory possible when he redirected Mark Fayne's shot from the right point past goalie Jimmy Howard with 36.6 seconds remaining in regulation to give the New Jersey Devils a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday at Prudential Center.
Brodeur, who has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, made 20 saves to earn his 15th win of the season.
It was an emotional evening for Brodeur and the sellout crowd of 16,592. The chants of "Marty! Marty!" began early and continued throughout the game.
"It was great," Brodeur said of the fans. "I didn't expect that. I think you guys did a good job to kind of create maybe a sellout for the Devils. But definitely it was nice that the fans reacted like that. I haven't played since Jan. 7 here in this building. It's been a while, so I was happy to get back in here and play well enough to win."
It seemed rather fitting the 41-year-old goalie would make three consecutive saves against veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson to ultimately give his team one final chance in the end.
The Devils rewarded Brodeur for those keys stops, outshooting (14-4) and outscoring (3-1) the Red Wings during the final 20 minutes to secure the victory for their longtime goalie.
Gionta actually retrieved the game puck for Brodeur after the dramatic finish.
The loss dropped the Red Wings one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets, a 4-2 winner against the Dallas Stars, in the race for the second of two wild-card spots in the Eastern Conference. Columbus has 69 points, the Red Wings and Washington Capitals have 68, and the Devils have 67.
New Jersey and Detroit play again Friday at Joe Louis Arena.
The fans were electric throughout, and for good reason. Not only was it a critical game in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but there had been speculation during the day that the game might mark the final appearance for Brodeur in a Devils jersey.
"We know the circumstances right now with what's left in the season and what we have to do to climb that mountain to the playoffs," Gionta said. "That's just one step right there."
Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted after the game that he hasn't yet determined whether Brodeur or Cory Schneider will start in Detroit. The one that doesn't is likely to get the call Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Red Wings tied the game at 3-3 when Todd Bertuzzi scored a power-play goal 9:43 into the third. Johan Franzen's shot from the left hash deflected off Bertuzzi's leg and past Brodeur.
Travis Zajac had given the Devils a 3-2 lead off a rebound from low in the left circle at 6:30. Howard (25 saves) was out of position on the play after making the initial save on a shot by Jaromir Jagr.
"We've been playing better since we came out of the Olympic break," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "We're creating more chances, and the puck is going in. We have another big game on Friday and we'll need to keep playing the same way."
Jagr's assist on Zajac's goal moved him into ninth place on the NHL's all-time list. It was the 1,041st of his career, one more than Marcel Dionne. He is eight behind Gordie Howe (1,049) for eighth place.
With the NHL Trade Deadline set for Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET, Brodeur's name has surfaced as a potential target of contenders. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello refuted a report in the New York Daily News earlier in the day that a trade with the Minnesota Wild was imminent.
"People are out of their minds spreading rumors," Lamoriello told NJ.com. "It's unbelievable to even hear these types of things I just think it's incredible the way rumors start. It's just a disgrace that there is a license to start rumors."
The Wild acquired Ilya Bryzgalov from the Edmonton Oilers earlier Tuesday.
Still, fans in attendance weren't exactly sure what to think, and they cheered the veteran goalie every chance they got. The appreciation for Brodeur, who was playing in his 1,250th career game, all with New Jersey, began even before the national anthem was sung, with those familiar chants of "Marty! Marty!"
"I'm sure they read the paper, but they don't know what will happen, and neither do we," Zajac said. "He's done so much for this organization and city, and I'm happy for him. I heard the chants. It was like a playoff atmosphere, especially since both teams are close in the standings."
The victory was the third in four games for the Devils (27-23-13). The Red Wings (28-21-12) had their two-game winning streak snapped.
"They were better than us in the third," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We had lot of good efforts, but we didn't execute. It's 36 seconds away from getting a point, so we have to execute better."
Babcock addressed the Brodeur trade rumors.
"I hope they don't trade Marty," he said. "A decorated athlete like him [deserves the opportunity to finish his career with one team]. I hope he stays a New Jersey Devil."
The Devils pulled into a 2-2 tie on a power-play goal 41 seconds into the third when Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson accidentally hit Howard's glove, dislodging the puck and sending it across the goal line. Elias, who was in the crease bumping with Ericsson, had an assist on the goal, which was credited to defenseman Marek Zidlicky. Howard pleaded with the officials for goalie interference, but the goal was upheld.
The Red Wings took their first lead 7:03 into the second when defenseman Brendan Smith collected a pass from Justin Abdelkader at the left hash and lined a shot just inside the left post. Brodeur was then called upon to make a big save against Bertuzzi at 12:21. After an initial shot by Luke Glendening hit a stick in front, Brodeur rolled over on his back and stopped Bertuzzi with his left pad high in the air.
The Red Wings pulled into a 1-1 tie 11:26 into the first period when Franzen scored his fourth goal in two games. With Detroit on a power play. Franzen stole the puck from Dainius Zubrus in the slot and stickhandled past Andy Greene before roofing a shot at the right post that beat Brodeur to the short side.
Henrique gave the Devils the lead 27 seconds into the game by jamming home an unassisted goal under Howard's left pad. Howard appeared to smother the puck with his glove, but he failed to freeze it and inadvertently knocked it across the goal line with the back of his leg. A video review confirmed that the puck crossed the goal line legally. The goal was the fifth in four games for Henrique since the Olympic break.
"It was grind, a trap game for us against a rested team," DeBoer said. "We had trouble finding the energy and in the third dug deep and outshot them, which was great considering how the game began."
The Red Wings, who are seeking a 23rd consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, were without captain Henrik Zetterberg (back surgery), Pavel Datsyuk (knee), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Jakub Kindl (lower body) and Daniel Cleary (knee).