A legend in New Jersey.
A legend in hockey.
Now, with his 551st victory, Brodeur is a leader in victories.
The New Jersey Devils won in tonight Montreal 3-1. The atmosphere at the end was special in how bizarre it was. The Montreal faithful were giving the home team the business of a Bronx cheer, upset with how Bob Gainey and Montreal just gave up on the game after Jamie Langenbrunner's goal in the third period.
Solid booing through the last two minutes of the game. But just as it ended, they all stood up and cheered wildly for Martin Brodeur's accomplishment. I have never seen a crowd in any sport be this appreciative for a record tied or broken by a visiting player. Montreal is truly a special place to play.
Now even more special, thanks to Martin Brodeur.
Tonight was a perfect win for the record to be tied because this was a solid team win by the Devils. Martin Brodeur was excellent in net, making some tough saves and absolutely robbing Montreal on rebounds and second effort shots. Many laud his consistency, his stickhandling, his attitude, and so forth. But Brodeur has excellent reflexes and at recovering from positions. The only player to have beaten him was Tomas Plekanec, who beat him far side with a strong shot. Other than that, it was straight-up, standard Brodeur-ian goaltendering: big saves from a hybrid-stance, enough to keep the Devils up and to deflate the opposition.
It wasn't just Brodeur who excelled tonight. Paul Martin and Niclas Havelid had very strong games on defense. They were just excellent in their positioning and their handling of the puck. They had great nights. Mike Rupp had a good game. He threw 5 hits, he hustled in the 8:37 he did play, and he had some good shifts forechecking and making some moves on offense. Travis Zajac had a strong night, setting up the Devils' first and third goals, as the ZZ Pops line continues to torment opposing defenders - earning the media's praise as being named the third star of the game. Tonight, the whole team seemed to have played well.
Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston hit milestones in this game as well as Brodeur. Elias torched Halak on a powerful shot on the power play in the first period, and assisted on Rolston's bomb from the point on a later power play in the first period. Those two points puts Elias with 701, which ties him with John MacLean for the franchise lead in scoring. Rolston's impressive shot was his 300th goal of his career. Congratulations to the both of them.
Montreal's Jaroslav Halak had a very good game; and the team really needed him to be great. He made 45 saves and I think the only shot he'd love to have back would be Rolston's bomb from the point. Halak and some unfortunate misses (John Madden on a shorthanded breakaway in the first period, Zach Parise had an open net but somehow shanked it in the third) have really kept this game from being a blowout. While a vast majority of the attention will deservedly be on Brodeur, Halak had a strong night.
That said, the Montreal defense was absolutely terrible! You're at home. You need points in the standings to keep ahead of the other playoff-fighting teams in the East. You want to impress the new coach who just happens to the GM, Bob Gainey. None of the defensemen on Montreal did anything impressive short of that one 2-on-1 Patrice Brisebois broke up early in the third period. The Devils just dominated on puck possession, they dumped and carried the puck into the zone with little trouble, and they kept doing some stupid things. Giveaways in their own zone, errant passes into the neutral zone, not being in position on offense to keep the puck in, and two delay-of-game penalties! All four lines had more than just one great shift going forward tonight!
No wonder the Devils' offense looked great and pounded Halak with goals! The defense was that abjectly bad for Montreal. If the Canadiens are going to have to hope Halak and Carey Price provide Brodeur-ian levels of performance in net, then they are going to fall out of the East! Gainey has to get his defensemen to play smarter, positional hockey. My only criticism of the Devils is that they didn't attack the slot enough to get some of the big rebounds Halak was giving up. However, as the score showed, it didn't matter.
The Canadiens, despite scoring in the first period, needed some time in the second before they started challenging Brodeur and opening up the game more in terms of offense. They gave Brodeur work, but you could tell from run of play that if the Devils scored the third goal, the Canadiens would be completely deflated.
And they were after Jamie Langenbrunner provided the excellent finish to an excellent shift from the high slot. Honestly, they started to fade as the Devils continued their pressure, continued their attack; and the Canadiens just couldn't get things going. Mainly, I think, due to their defense playing so poorly - especially at moving that puck. That they couldn't attack all that much in the first period due to some stupid penalties on their part, also hurt in having them get going. Yet, whatever was left of their attack was just held in check by the Devils' defenders all night long. Especially at the end with the Devils just owning the puck and Halak remaining in net.
That all said, the Devils were clearly the better team tonight. In all areas. They are now on a 3 game winning streak, the Devils continue to keep rolling, and now Brodeur has a real chance to break the record in Newark on Tuesday.