Martin Brodeur's pursuit of NHL history is officially on.
Brodeur, who is chasing Patrick Roy's goaltending record of 551 wins, recorded No. 539 of his illustrious career as the New Jersey Devils opened their season by defeating the New York Islanders 2-1 on Friday night at Prudential Center.
"Hopefully, he can get those wins he needs as quickly as possible," said Patrik Elias, who scored the deciding goal early in the second period. "That's the best for us. The more wins he gets, the better for the team. It looks like he hasn't missed a beat. Nothing has changed. That's great for us."
The win for Brodeur, who had 25 saves, was similar to many of the 538 that preceded it during his 15 previous seasons with the Devils — he came up with the key stops when they needed to be made. With the game tied 1-1 in the first period, Brodeur denied Islanders rookie Kyle Okposo on a penalty shot after Colin White took down Okposo on a breakaway. Brodeur also made a couple of big saves in the final seconds of regulation to preserve the Devils' lead, turning aside Mark Streit's point shot and gloving Mike Comrie's attempt off the rebound.
"I tried to give him something to take, and I gave him a little of my glove," Brodeur said of Okposo's penalty shot. "He took it. He has a hard shot and I thought he would try to overpower me, and that's what he did. He made a good try. I got a little piece of it, just enough."
Over the years, Brodeur's goaltending has made it possible for the Devils to win on many a night without a wealth of offense, and on Friday he made goals by Elias and Zach Parise stand up. Parise tied the game with a power-play goal in the first and Elias notched the game-winner 29 seconds into the middle period.
At the other end of the ice, Joey MacDonald finished with 27 saves and held his own as something of a surprise replacement for Rick DiPietro. The Islanders' franchise goalie made his preseason debut Monday in a 6-0 loss at Florida, but was held out of the opener by new coach Scott Gordon, who is taking a cautious approach as DiPietro recovers from offseason surgery.
"If we were to lose the first three games of the year and he is better for it, then we are a better team for it," said Gordon, who wouldn't commit to a starter for Saturday's home opener against St. Louis.
Despite finishing 20 points behind the Devils in the standings last season, the Islanders prevailed in six of eight meetings against their Atlantic Division rivals. They got off to a good start Friday, as MacDonald held New Jersey off the board early and veteran newcomer Doug Weight capitalized on a power play midway through the first. Weight attempted a centering pass that changed directions off the skate of Devils defenseman Paul Martin and beat Brodeur at 9:48.
Parise evened the score just 3:01 later when he backhanded a shot into a wide-open right side of the net after MacDonald had made an initial stop on Martin. The rebound angled to the right circle, where it found Parise's stick.
Hard work in front of the net led to Elias scoring the go-ahead goal before half a minute elapsed in the second. Brian Gionta's pass across the crease was nudged by Elias toward MacDonald and the forward and goalie then came together. The rebound sat free and before MacDonald could find it Elias was able to backhand it into the net.
The Islanders had their opportunities over the final 40 minutes, but couldn't work another puck past Brodeur. He stopped Jeff Tambellini and Jon Sim from in close late in the second period and was up to the task on a pair of blasts from Streit in the third. The iron was also his friend, as Richard Park rang a couple shots off the post.
"We had some opportunities in the slot that Brodeur made great saves on," Gordon said. "The first period we were a little jittery, but I thought we picked it up in the second and continued in the third."
Gordon, last season's AHL coach of the year for the Providence Bruins, was hired to replace Ted Nolan behind the bench, and the Islanders brought in veteran leadership in Weight and blue-line talent in Streit to blend with a mostly young cast. The effort on the ice Friday was solid, but it wasn't enough to show a win on the scoreboard thanks in large part to Brodeur.
"Marty is Marty. He is the best goalie of all time," said center Brian Rolston, whose return to the Devils along with Bobby Holik — another former Stanley Cup winner with the Devils — were the big moves for New Jersey in the offseason. "He was awesome again tonight and unfortunately that is what everyone is expecting of him."
Material from wire services was used in this report.