New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur broke the last major goaltending record he had yet to put his name at the top of as his 35-save effort in a 4-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins gave him the 104th shutout of his illustrious career, surpassing Terry Sawchuk. Brodeur had previously tied Sawchuk’s mark with a 3-0 blanking of the Buffalo Sabres on Dec. 7.
Establishing the all-time shutout mark caps a remarkable four-and-a-half week stretch for Brodeur which saw him eclipse Patrick Roy’s all-time record for minutes played (60,235) on Nov. 27 at Boston and later Roy’s all-time record for appearances with 1,030 on Dec. 18 at Ottawa.
As great as those records were, it was clear after the game this record holds a special place in Brodeur’s heart.
“This record was held for so long from Terry Sawchuk that when you break records and you see how long they last I think it’s pretty cool,” Brodeur said. “Tying it was pretty amazing in Buffalo a couple weeks ago and definitely now surpassing him, it’s a great honor for me to be in that position.”
In an ironic twist, Sawchuk’s 103rd shutout also came against the Penguins on Feb. 1, 1970 when he was in the net for the New York Rangers in a 6-0 victory at Madison Square Garden. Adding further irony is the 4-0 final on Monday in shutout No. 104 was the same score in the first zero of Brodeur’s career, on Oct. 20, 1993 against Anaheim.
Brodeur only had to make 17 saves in that contest, but on a night when first place in both the National Hockey League and Eastern Conference standing was on the line he had to withstand a furious charge from the Penguins in the final minutes of the game. He said as the clock wound down on regulation, making history was definitely on his mind.
“Definitely when there is a lot at stake and you are coming close to a record or surpassing a record it definitely becomes a little more nerve racking,” Brodeur said. “I don’t get nervous but I was a little nervous. They kept on being in the zone also.”
As the Penguins peppered him with shots in an effort to avoid becoming a footnote in history Brodeur made 14 saves in the final frame, including a kick save on Sidney Crosby
’s one-timer from the top of the right circle 1:59 into the period. Then, with 1:43 left in regulation he could only watch as a Crosby shot eluded his reach but rung off the left goalpost and out of harms way.
“It was too fast,” said Brodeur of Crosby’s shot off the post. “I saw it hit the post and it was out already. He had a good shot early in the third that just missed the net and he had that one-timer that got stuck in my pads. They definitely had some quality chances on us.”
Brodeur and his teammates were able to focus on surpassing Sawchuk thanks in large part to a three-goal scoring spree in the second period behind goals from Niclas Bergfors, Patrik Elias and Mark Fraser which turned a tight-checking 1-0 game into a decisive 4-0 New Jersey lead.
With that 4-0 advantage in hand during the second intermission, Brodeur admitted after the game that the thought of breaking Sawchuk’s mark entered his conscious. He appreciated the extra effort from his teammates during the final period, as they recognized the chance to once again be a part of history from what has been the face of the Devils’ franchise since he took over the top netminding reigns during the 1993-94 campaign.
“You can tell the guys were focused and knew exactly what was going on,” Brodeur said. “It is something that I really appreciate throughout the years the commitment that my team has done.”
Forward Zach Parise, the Devils’ leading scorer who led the offensive onslaught once again with assists on all three second-period scores, talked about how the other 19 players on the Devils bench took pride in helping make sure this was the evening Sawchuk’s mark fell.
“When it starts getting down to 10 minutes, five minutes everyone is thinking about it,” Parise said. “We were all making sure we were smart and on our defensive side of guys. We were blocking a lot of shots around the net. We are all pretty happy that we are able to be a part of it.”
When the final buzzer rang and his teammates rushed from the bench to celebrate as if they had just won the Stanley Cup, the Pittsburgh fans showed their class by acknowledging the historical significance of what they had just witness as they stood and saluted the future Hall of Famer.
“Yes I did,” said Brodeur when asked if he noticed the crowd’s applause. “(The response) has been great throughout the little records I have been breaking here with the games played, minutes played and now with the shutouts.
“I think I did a few of them on the road and I think everybody, especially when you go to a hockey market, like Pittsburgh or Boston or Buffalo, I think people appreciate it even though it is not their team. I think they appreciate what I have accomplished and definitely for me it is great that they recognize that.”
The record-setting goose egg was the fifth of Brodeur’s career at Mellon Arena, the most in any venue the Devils have not called home during Brodeur’s career. It was the seventh time Brodeur held the Penguins without a goal in 67 career appearances and the 25th zero he has posted in the month of December, seven more than his next-closest month.
Brodeur, who now has a league-best 30 shutouts since the end of the lockout in 2005-06, was just as happy with getting an important two points against a quality opponent as he was surpassing another benchmark.
“Today was a big challenge knowing the two teams were on top of the Eastern Conference and the league,” Brodeur said. “To come in and be able to win decisively like that feels pretty good.”
And now Brodeur and the rest of the Devils can focus on getting more victories as the first half of the season draws to a close and the games continue to take on more importance.
“I am definitely happy that it is past and now we are just going to play and not answer that question.”