WASHINGTON (AP) - Martin Brodeur thrust his glove hand into the air in an instant to knock down a point-blank shot from the league's hottest rookie.
Rust? What rust?
The Vezina Trophy winner returned from the longest injury-induced absence of his NHL career Friday, making 21 saves in the New Jersey Devils' 4-3 Veterans Day matinee victory over the Washington Capitals.
Brodeur had missed six games with a sprained knee, an eternity for one of the league's most durable goaltenders. In his 750th NHL game, he got win No. 408 to move past Glenn Hall and into sole possession of sixth place in all-time victories.
"I survived the game," Brodeur said. "Personally, I felt really good in there. My leg was good. I was not afraid to play the way I wanted to play. That's something I was looking at before getting a start. I'm pretty happy about it."
His return came at opportune time. The victory ended a four-game losing streak, the Devils' longest since 2001, and put the team back at the .500 mark.
"It's one that we needed," center Scott Gomez said. "We lost four in a row. It doesn't matter whether we win 8-7. We needed that win."
Grant Marshall, Zach Parise, Brian Gionta and Gomez scored for the Devils, and Marshall had two assists. Parise and Gionta scored in a 4-minute span late in the second period to give the Devils a 3-1 lead, and Gomez made it 4-1 in the third before the Capitals mounted a late comeback.
Matt Bradley scored in the first period for the Capitals. Captain Jeff Halpern scored his first goal of the season in the third, and rookie Alexander Ovechkin poked in his 13th to pull Washington within one with 9:25 remaining, but the Capitals were unable to get the tying goal.
"We tried to create our own momentum and our own energy with about 10 minutes left," Washington coach Glen Hanlon said. "We played our game. That's the way we have to play from the start."
While Brodeur returned, another Vezina Trophy goaltender was sidelined. Washington's Olie Kolzig missed the game with a hamstring injury that has bothered him since Tuesday's loss at Toronto. The Capitals recalled Frederic Cassivi from their AHL affiliate in Hershey and gave him his first NHL start since February 2003.
Cassivi made several nice saves, none better than when he slid sideways to smother Alexander Mogilny's shot off a rebound in the first period. But the defense in front of him let him down with a turnover that led to one goal and by allowing the Devils' forwards too much space.
Brodeur had his highlights, too, including the quick-reaction reach to knock down a close-in shot from Ovechkin in the first period. Brodeur also slid to kick away a put-back from Brian Sutherby in the second. Those are the kind of plays he was anxious to make after two weeks in the trainers' room.
"It felt long," Brodeur said. "Not playing is one thing, but not being with the guys. I was out of it for 18 months with the lockout and now I'm so happy to get back. When you're hurt - I'd never really experienced it before - you're not part of a team too much."
Notes: The teams meet again Saturday afternoon at New Jersey, completing a rare matinee version of a home-and-home set. ... D Ivan Majesky was activated before the game and made his Capitals debut. Majesky was signed as a free agent in August, but he missed training camp and the first 15 games of the season with a knee injury. ... Brodeur is the 17th goaltender to play in 750 games. ... Capitals LW Jeff Friesen was scratched with a groin injury. ... New Jersey D Dan McGillis returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for two games. ... The Capitals are 0-8 when trailing after two periods. ... Cassivi's last NHL game was an 8-0 loss against Vancouver while playing for Atlanta on Feb. 25, 2003.
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