Devils 2, Penguins 0 FINAL
|Brodeur made 32 saves for his fourth shutout of the season, 105th of his career.
On the day he was named to Team Canada's 2010 Olympic team, Martin Brodeur
was positively golden against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Brodeur stopped all 32 shots he faced from the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, shutting them out for the second straight time as the Devils triumphed, 2-0, at a sold-out Prudential Center.
Niclas Bergfors scored 1:48 into the first period, and the game remained 1-0 until Jamie Langenbrunner
's shorthanded empty-netter with 11.8 seconds left in regulation. Brent Johnson made 31 saves, but the Devils improved to 4-0 against the Penguins with their fifth straight win in Newark.
Brodeur, who posted his record-setting 104th career shutout in Pittsburgh only nine days ago, has allowed two goals in four meetings with one of the NHL's premier teams.
The Devils (28-9-1) handed the Penguins their third straight loss to move four points ahead of them atop the Atlantic Division. New Jersey has dominated them on the scoresheet by a 14-2 count.
"It was definitely a big challenge for us to beat the Penguins again," said Brodeur, who was named to Canada's 23-man Olympic roster on Wednesday. "Everybody responded to the challenge. Knowing that these guys played last night (4-3 loss at Buffalo), we played a smart game. We were on the puck quick, and if it wasn't for their goalie, the outcome would've been maybe a little different."
Brodeur's save of the night came against Evgeni Malkin during a second-period 4-on-4. Sidney Crosby fed cross-slot for Malkin, and Brodeur answered Malkin's backhander with a toe stop at 8:11.
"It seems the bigger the game, Marty's able to rise up and come up big," Langenbrunner said. "Tonight was no exception. I think he was excited for this game. You could see it before the game, when he was focused and ready to go. For us as a team, that's obviously a great feeling. I think we did a pretty decent job in front of him of limiting their opportunities, but when we did break down, he was able to come up big for us."
The Devils have held Malkin without a point in three games, while Crosby has been limited to just two assists in four outings versus Jersey's Team. Two of Brodeur's four shutouts have come against Penguins, and he became the only goaltender to blank them twice this year.
"It's a top team," Brodeur said. "It's the team that the last two seasons have made it all the way to the Stanley Cup (Finals) and won last year, so they're a good hockey club. Any time you're able to shut down some of the key players on the other side, especially the likes of Crosby and Malkin, I think guys are (doing their job), because we've done a great job on these guys so far in the series."
Head coach Jacques Lemaire, who will be an assistant coach for Team Canada when the Olympic tournament begins in February, said his netminder had his best game of the season.
"Definitely," Lemaire said. "He was controlled, managed to see the shots. Sometimes you get people in front of you, and some nights you don't see them. Other nights you manage to see it, and that's what makes the difference between a great goalie and a good goalie."
Brodeur and the Devils will have little time to rest before their next challenge. They visit the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks on New Year's Eve.
"We're at a stage where we're measuring ourselves with the top teams," Brodeur said. "We had a tough game against Washington, and we knew it was another matchup here that was big for our hockey club to see where we're at moving forward, and we responded really well. (Thursday's) another one, a team that we don't know much, but we know that they're a good hockey club."
Lemaire wouldn't say his team's the best in the League, but acknowledged they're in the mix.
"I think we're among the good teams right now, and there's a lot of them," he said. "About 25."
Bergfors' 13th goal of the season was the only one scored in the first 59 minutes of play. He intercepted Mark Eaton's rim attempt along the right boards, and snapped a shot from the far right hash marks that snuck between Johnson's pads at 1:48 of the first period.
"I just tried to put it on net," Bergfors said. "There was a lot of traffic, and you never know what happens. I didn't think it would go in when I shot it. I was trying to get it on net for a rebound."
Bergfors has scored in every game of the series and is tied with Zach Parise
for the series lead with seven points (4g-3a). It's no secret to Bergfors what the Devils have done right thus far.
"We're aware of their top players," he said. "Marty's been unbelievable in these games. Like today, it's amazing how much he can stand up for us."
Parise, who hit the crossbar on a 2-on-1 with Mike Mottau with six minutes to go in regulation, said Bergfors' scoring touch against the champs has been remarkable.
"For whatever reason, he plays really well against Pittsburgh," Parise said. "He's got good numbers against them. I guess when you're playing with him against Pittsburgh you know you're going to have a good night."
Johnson headed for the bench for the extra attacker with 1:26 remaining as Travis Zajac
was called for holding. Rob Niedermayer found Langenbrunner in the defensive zone, and the captain skated to the circles before scoring into the empty net.
did not have a shift after the 6:06 mark of the second period, when he was credited with a hit against Pascal Dupuis. He left the game with a lower body injury. Lemaire could not confirm whether Clarkson or Salvador, who was out of Wednesday's lineup with a lower body injury, would travel to Chicago, but said it "doesn't look good" for Salvador to make the trip.
• Brodeur had a highlight-reel glove save on Kris Letang's wrister 52 seconds into the second, then got a left pad on Ruslan Fedotenko's one-timer from the slot at 5:13. If he wasn't already in the Penguins' heads, this game might've done it.
"It's a fine line," Brodeur said. "You can be there, and one bounce in a game could really flip-flop the confidence that they have. We respect them and I think that's the reason why we've been successful. I think we don't take anything for granted. We know that if we put our guard down against these guys, they'll take care of us, so we were intense for the 60 minutes. It was a good game tonight."
• Lemaire said Bergfors is still getting better as a player. He moved within three goals of the Isles' John Tavares for the rookie lead.
"I think he's more in control when he has the puck," Lemaire said. "I still want him to try to find Zach or Travis at different times in the offensive zone so they can make that play and get more scoring chances. But he's learning and he's getting better. I'm pleased with his progress."
• After missing an empty net in Monday's win over Atlanta, Langenbrunner wasn't taking any chances.
"My percentages of shooting from the blue line haven't been real good," he joked. "I figured I'd skate it in."
• Matt Corrente was back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 7 at Buffalo, and was paired with Mark Fraser
. The Devils' top four d-men logged big minutes in Salvador's absence. Andy Greene
led the team with 26:16 of ice time. Johnny Oduya logged 24:14; Mike Mottau, 23:11; and Colin White
|Three star selections