Brodeur posted his first shutout of the season and 102nd of his career.
As the third period wound down Saturday night at Prudential Center, the scenario felt a little too familiar: the Devils up by a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes in a game they desperately wanted to win.
This time, however, there would be joy in New Jersey.
Jamie Langenbrunner broke a scoreless tie 26 seconds into the third period and Martin Brodeur protected the one-goal lead with 26 saves. Zach Parise added an empty-netter with 39.4 seconds remaining and the Devils secured their first home victory of the season with a 2-0 decision over the Hurricanes.
The final minutes of regulation were eerily similar to Game 7 of last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinal. The Devils were leading 3-2 when Carolina ended up scoring twice in the final 1:20 to steal the first-round series.
The Devils might have had to battle through a case of déja vu, but it didn't unsettle them on Saturday. They snapped their three-game losing streak at home and improved to 4-3-0, overall.
"There was definitely a flashback," Brodeur said. "Good thing we have a lot of new players so they didn't feel it as much as some of us. But all year long so far, in the games that we won and the games that we tied – two shootout games and we won one (in Florida) 3-2 that was a tie game – we've been playing well the last few minutes of a game."
All four of the Devils' wins this season have needed the help of a third-period goal.
"That confidence was definitely a little different than maybe in the past that we've given up a lot late in games," Brodeur said. "That's something to learn. We learn, and the coaching staff pays close attention to little details in our zone, and I think it showed today."
Jacques Lemaire was all smiles afterward, nailing down his first win at the Rock.
"Much better," Lemaire said of his team's performance. "Everyone worked hard, everyone played disciplined. We were good with the puck, we had good scoring chances. I can't find a player that didn't do his job."
Brodeur was at the top of that list, earning the game's First Star. He notched his 102nd career shutout and moved within one of tying Terry Sawchuk for the NHL's all-time mark.
"Marty was just great," Lemaire said. "That's how we know him; the type of game he can play."
One of Brodeur's best came in the third period. He made a shorthanded stop on Eric Staal, the Devils nemesis who tallied the series-clincher last spring. Staal's backhander from the right circle came just nine seconds after the Devils had gone on their third power play of the evening.
"I wasn't giving the far side away," Brodeur said, referring to Staal's Game 7 winner. "If you beat me, beat me on the glove side this time."
Already the winningest goaltender in history, Brodeur sits two shutouts away from sole possession of another revered mark.
"It's a hard one to figure out because every game has its own story, and you never know when the next one will be," he said. "It's hard to really look forward to it, but I'm closer. If we get shutouts, that means we get wins and that means everybody's happy. That's the bottom line."
The game was scoreless until Langenbrunner netted his second of the season 26 seconds into the third. Rob Niedermayer gained the Carolina blueline and dished to Parise, who gave it back. Niedermayer skated toward the left corner before shovelling the puck to Langenbrunner, who batted it by Cam Ward. A video review upheld the 1-0 score.
"When we scored that goal, I thought, 'This is going to be it for me; this is the production I'm going to get,'"Brodeur said. "In my head, it wasn't about a shutout, it was, 'Now I can't give up anything. We just need to get it done now.'"
Langenbrunner couldn't help but notice the parallels between Saturday and last April.
"Actually, the tying goal kind of happened again tonight, where (Tim) Gleason was in the middle and threw to the 'D' on the boards," Langenbrunner said. "It was kind of eerily similar, but live and learn, I think, as you play the game. You're going to see a lot of things. I think you get that feeling, but you get rid of it just as quickly and focus on getting the job done."
The Devils survived their second bench minor for too many men in as many nights, and squandered 1:44 of a 5-on-3 midway through the third period. They went 0-for-4 on the power play and slipped to 0-for-15 over the last three games, but Lemaire was enthusiastic about his group's energy level.
He named Niclas Bergfors as a standout. The Swedish rookie blasted a game-high eight shots on Ward, who made 27 saves.
"I just feel that he's solid," Lemaire said of Bergfors. "You look at him when he gets the puck, he's good with the puck. He controls it, makes good plays. You talk to Lou or any of the coaching staff, I liked the kid from Day One. I said, 'This kid can play.' He needed a little help, a little time to produce. He missed a few chances but he's there. We'll work on his shot. Him and Matt Halischuk never stop. They just keep working."
The Devils will have four days off before heading on the road to face the Rangers on Thursday and Pittsburgh next Saturday. They return home for Buffalo on Wednesday, Oct. 28.
But the elusive first home win is finally out of the way.
"It doesn't erase some of the things that we need to improve on," Brodeur said. "Again, the killer instinct to put teams away. We had a 5-on-3, you've got to be better than that. It was good enough to win; we won the game, that's nice."
Zajac centered Bergfors and Halischuk on Saturday.
Could it be the end of the ZZ Pops line? For now, at least. The Devils' top trio from last season was split up on Saturday, as Lemaire showcased a bundle of different combos. Zajac centered Bergfors and Halischuk, while Parise and Langenbrunner were centered first by Dainius Zubrus, then by Niedermayer.
"I feel much better with the (lines) that we have right now," Lemaire said. "I think our team is more solid. It's too bad that we're breaking a line that had so much success last year, but I talked to the guys and they want to go on with this. They also feel that it's going to help the team.
"You could tell the job that Travis did tonight with the kids, that was really good. He makes the kids even better. So this is what we need."
Parise knew about the changes were coming.
"We knew it was happening; we knew this morning," he said. "I don't think anyone was surprised. It's not as if we were scoring four or five goals a game. It's tough when you have (Patrik) Elias out, one of the best forwards in the League. You have to mix and match and find things that work."
• Halischuk took a high stick from Rod Brind'Amour two minutes into the second period, when the Carolina captain's follow-through on a clearing attempt clipped Halischuk. He left the ice with a towel to his face, and returned with 12 minutes to go in the second.
"Matt got a stick in the face, on the nose, and was bleeding but wanted to come back as quick as possible," Lemaire said. "He wants to play. It's great to have kids like that."
Halischuk was sporting a swollen upper lip after the game and was hopeful that he wouldn't lose any teeth.
"I have to go for an x-ray and see what's up, but hopefully they can all stay in," Halischuk said.
• The too many men penalty didn't turn out to be costly this time, but Lemaire wasn't happy to have weathered a fourth bench minor in seven games.
"I think we're practicing our penalty kill," Lemaire joked. "That's the only thing I can see. The guys they want to kill penalties so our average gets better. Really, again, the player thought the player he was replacing was on the bench. He said, 'That's why I jumped. I thought he was on the bench.'"
• Parise's third of the season, an empty-netter, followed Langenbrunner missing the open cage just seconds earlier.
"That's happened to me before, it's happened to everyone," Parise said of the miss. "It's one of those things, you don't want to miss it wide because you miss it wide and they're on 3-on-2 coming back. It happens, it's going to happen again."
• Bergfors got in alone on Ward with 6:35 remaining, but had the puck knocked off his stick from behind by a 'Canes defender before he release his shot.
• Zajac's power-play breakaway with a minute to go in the second was foiled by Ward, who got the knob of his stick down to knock the puck away.