No one in National Hockey League history has more shutouts than Martin Brodeur.
On Monday, Brodeur blanked the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0, for his 103rd career shutout, tying Terry Sawchuk for the most all-time. Brodeur, who broke the League record for wins last March, recorded 22 saves.
"I just look behind me and there's nobody close, and that's pretty impressive to see so many shutouts," Brodeur told Versus. "But I think it's just a lot of credit to the organization I've been playing all my career. The commitment defensively all the players that went through this organization while I was here, that they made. It became a big number and I hope it won't stop there."
With a pump of his catching glove, Brodeur celebrated as he was joined in the crease by his Devils teammates. The first to arrive was defenseman Andy Greene, who was followed by Bryce Salvador, Colin White and Mark Fraser. Brodeur was perfect between the pipes, just as he was for his first NHL shutout against Anaheim on Oct. 20, 1993.
Since then, Brodeur has amassed three Stanley Cups, four Vezina trophies and an Olympic gold medal. The winningest goaltender in history (575), Brodeur leads the NHL with 18 victories this season and continues to distance himself from his contemporaries in career totals. (With 395 wins and 50 shutouts, 37-year-old Chris Osgood is second among active goalies on both lists.)
Sawchuk was 40 when he reached 103 shutouts in 1969-70, but was limited to 21 starts over his final two seasons. At 37, Brodeur endures among the game's elite and is considered the favorite for Team Canada's starting job at the 2010 Winter Games.
Brodeur has won three in a row and has prevailed in six of his last seven starts. His second shutout of the season was also his second career blanking of Buffalo.
New Jersey (20-7-1, 41pts) improved to 11-2-1 on the road and tied Pittsburgh in points for first place in the Atlantic Division.
"I think with the last few games, we had a couple going into the third with no goals," Brodeur said. "When it was at nine minutes left, I was like, 'Let's try to beat this,' and then we'll move on to five minutes and really think about it in the last five minutes. But the guys played really well in front of me, and made a big difference in why we were able to get a shutout, but especially a big win."
Brian Rolston, Travis Zajac and Niclas Bergfors scored for the Devils, who struck for a 3-0 lead in a 2:48 window spanning the end of the first period and the start of the second.
Brodeur faced only 12 shots in the first two periods, but had to stay sharp in the third when the Sabres put 10 pucks on goal. The final 39:21 of regulation turned into a countdown to yet another Brodeur milestone.
"I think you have to stay in the game by talking a lot, and communicate with your players and play the puck a bit," he said. "It was nice; we just dominated the first two periods, and especially in the second, early on was nice to see, we don't see that a lot in New Jersey. The guys really played well and I was able to gain confidence from that type of play."
Just as impressive was the Devils' showing against one of the NHL's top netminders. Buffalo's Ryan Miller, the lead candidate for Team USA's starting job at the 2010 Winter Olympics, entered the game leading the League in goals-against average (1.85) and save percentage (.936).
Miller allowed three or more goals for just the fifth time this year, and slipped to 16-6-2 on the season. The Sabres had won four of five entering Monday's meeting.
The Devils took a 2-0 first-period lead for the second straight contest, exploding for two goals in the final 2:09 of the opening frame.
Vladimir Zharkov had the secondary assist on Rolston's goal, but it was the young Russian's quickness that sparked the play. He pulled up sharply at the right half boards and put the puck down low to Patrik Elias, who flipped to the front of the net.
Rolston poked it over the line at 17:51 for his 10th of the season and fourth goal in the last five games.
Just 1:07 later, Zajac blasted a slapshot from the top of the right circle that squeezed under Miller's glove. Zajac's ninth of the season was his second marker in four games.
Bergfors notched his ninth of the season, fifth on the power play, 39 seconds into the second period. He collected Jamie Langenbrunner's pass from the left point, and wired a wrist shot past Miller from the top of the left circle.
Zach Parise had a goal disallowed with 19.9 seconds left in regulation when it was ruled he kicked the puck into the net.
Langenbrunner extended his points streak to five games (2g-4a). … Mike Mottau (ill) was scratched. … Devils outshot the Sabres, 37-22. … Parise had a game-high seven shots on goal; Bergfors was next with six. … Devils improved to 12-3 when scoring first and remained perfect (7-0) when leading after the first.
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