NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Martin Brodeur hadn't played in the NHL in months, waiting for some team to call the 42-year-old goaltender. Now the league's all-time leader in wins and shutouts is back at work showing very little signs of rust from his layoff.
Brodeur made 20 saves in his season debut Thursday night in a losing effort as his new team, the St. Louis Blues, lost 4-3 to the Nashville Predators.
And yes, seeing all that blue instead of red after 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils was different.
"In warmups when I came out and I saw just the colour of the jerseys, it was just weird to look at," Brodeur said. "That went away pretty quick."
Brodeur last played in the NHL on April 13 when he won his 688th and final game for the Devils. He waited around all summer and deep into the fall waiting for someone to call after going 19-14-6 with a 2.51 goals-against average, .901 save percentage and three shutouts in 39 games last season.
The Blues finally did, needing help with Brian Elliott sidelined by a knee injury and desperate to keep pace in the tight and challenging Central Division. St. Louis signed Brodeur to a one-year contract on Tuesday, though he hooked up with St. Louis last week and practiced fully on Monday.
But this is a goaltender who is a four-time Vezina Trophy winner with a 688-394-176 career record who also holds most major regular-season goalie records including games (1,259) and minutes played.
Against the Predators, Brodeur got started in the opening minute making a fine save in close against Colin Wilson.
"Oh I felt pretty good," Brodeur said. "You know it's like everything. Everything is new. I got a lot of work right from the get-go too so that kind of helped to get me in the game. I felt pretty good ... just making that one save on the breakaway in the third that got away from me that could've made the difference."
Wilson finally beat Brodeur on a breakaway with a backhanded shot glove-side for what wound up as the winning goal at 9:30 of the third.
Brodeur's performance impressed his new teammates.
"I'm not a goalie, but I'm sure it's not easy going from practicing with a few guys and taking a few shots to game pace in December," Blues defenceman Barret Jackman said. "I thought he looked pretty good."
The Blues now have lost two straight and fallen two points behind Nashville in the Central Division, and the Predators were happy to get a rare win over Brodeur. The goalie came in 3-1-1 in his last five starts against Nashville, including a shutout in his last game against the Predators on Nov. 10, 2013.
"We just wanted to throw everything at him," Nashville centre Mike Fisher said. "He hasn't played in a while and hasn't practiced a lot, either, but he looked pretty sharp. It was definitely good to get that one."
The Blues now visit the New York Islanders on Saturday to wrap up a three-game road trip. Coach Ken Hitchcock didn't say if Brodeur or Jake Allen will get the start next. Hitchcock was pretty succinct in summing up Brodeur's debut.
"Marty was fine," Hitchcock said.