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Win over 'Canes one of Brodeur's best ever

by Phil Coffey
The edge of my seat got a lot of use Thursday night watching Martin Brodeur battle Cam Ward in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series.

The 1-0 New Jersey win provided a rousing argument that low-scoring games can be more than a little exciting. The question posed in several quarters was the Game 5 win, in which Brodeur made 44 saves -- tying Patrick Roy for the most shutouts in Stanley Cup history (23) -- the best of his Stanley Cup Playoffs career.

Let's say it's in the Top 10 in Brodeur's illustrious career. Perhaps Brodeur's greatest playoff effort came in a loss back in 1994, when he and Dominik Hasek were brilliant in a quadruple overtime game that ended in a 1-0 win for the Buffalo Sabres. Brodeur made 49 saves in that one, but Thursday's 44 stops were the most in a regulation playoff win.

In 1995, Brodeur also recorded memorable wins in the Stanley Cup Final as the Devils swept the heavily favored Red Wings. The 2000 Final saw Brodeur best Ed Belfour in six games, with Brodeur winning in overtime in the Cup clincher. The 2003 Final started as a cakewalk for New Jersey, but soon became a nailbiter as the Anaheim Ducks pushed the series to the distance, with Brodeur pitching a shutout in the decisive seventh game.

All great efforts, but you could see Brodeur was really in the zone for this game. He took his game up another level, knowing the Devils had to have this one to avoid a potential elimination game Sunday in Carolina.

"It was just a great game," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "It's difficult to take a loss at this point in the series, but you had great goaltending. We had over 70 shot attempts in that game. There was great goaltending because there was great offense on that ice tonight."

When the opposing coach makes that kind of assessment, you know the game was special.

"I was tested a lot," Brodeur said. "A lot of crashing the net. It was vintage playoff hockey on both sides. For a 1-0 game, 80-something shots...they saw a lot of chances and pretty good goaltending on both sides. There was no break."

At the other end, Ward made 41 saves, allowing only a power-play goal off a deflection by David Clarkson at 11:22 of the second period. Seeing Ward play so well prompted Brodeur to raise his own game even more.

"He's been great in all of the games we've played and tonight was no different" Brodeur told Tom Gulitti of the Record. "He made the stop at the right time in the game and it took a tip to score a goal on him. So, definitely, the margin for error for our defensive squad was next to none the way he played."

"Marty, you can't say enough about him," teammate Colin White said. "He played great tonight. He just was steady, strong. That's one of the best games I've seen him play. I've seen him play a lot of good games, even in this series. But tonight he had that edge."
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