Martin Brodeur set the NHL's shutout record in style, dominating the defending Stanley Cup champions in their own building.
He made 35 saves Monday night in Pittsburgh to hand the Penguins a 4-0 loss and record his 104th career shutout, surpassing Terry Sawchuk for the most all-time.
A shot from Sidney Crosby hit the right post with 1:42 left in the third period, and later, Brodeur made a dramatic glove save on Evgeni Malkin with 42 seconds remaining.
Brodeur eclipsed Sawchuk's 39-year-old mark, which he tied Dec. 7 in Buffalo. Exactly two weeks later, the record belongs to Brodeur alone.
"Tying it was pretty amazing in Buffalo a couple weeks ago," said Brodeur, who has three shutouts this season and leads the NHL with 23 wins. "Now surpassing him is a great honor to be in that position, that's for sure."
Much like that game in Buffalo, in which the Devils led 3-0 after 40 minutes, Monday's contest was decided by the second period. The Devils struck three times in the middle frame to chase Penguins' netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, leaving the third period only to determine whether or not Brodeur would make history.
"Yeah I was thinking about it," he said. "Every time you go in, especially when you have a lead, a lot of the teams are going to bear down now and maybe go for it. It's hard because I'm not on the bench; I don't know what guys are talking about. You could tell guys were focused and knew exactly what was going on.
"It's something that I really appreciate throughout the years, the commitment that my team (has made). I'm definitely getting the fruit of it, breaking records, but shutouts you don't do by yourself, you do them with everybody."
The Devils' (26-8-1) victory broke their first-place tie with Pittsburgh and gave New Jersey sole possession of the League's top spot. They improved to 3-0 against the Penguins by sweeping all three meetings in Pittsburgh and outscoring them, 12-2.
"When I look at how Marty played tonight, it tells you how good this guy's been in big games," Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire told MSG. "We knew before the game that we won the first two here, and this one tonight was a big one, a big game because we knew they would play at their best. We got a couple of breaks and Marty was excellent."
Brodeur recognized the significance of the match-up coming in.
"It was a big game for us, so definitely to have a shutout on top of it is great," he said. "But they made me work for it. I had to make a couple of good saves – got a little lucky, just a like a good goalie should be. It worked out well."
It has been a milestone-filled 2009 for Brodeur, who eclipsed Patrick Roy's wins record last march, and began the season by joining Roy as the only goalies with 1,000 appearances. He broke Roy's mark for minutes played (60,235) in Boston on Nov. 27, then passed him for most appearances by a goaltender (1,030) on Friday.
Brodeur said he doesn't focus on records, but the closer he gets to a new mark, the more difficult it becomes to ignore.
"Usually in the middle of the pack of my shutouts, then I didn't really care about it too much, I just played the game; tried to win the game," he said. "But definitely when there's a lot at stake and you're going to come close to a record or surpass a record, it definitely becomes a little more nerve-wracking. I don't get nervous, but today (I) was a little nervous and they kept on being in the zone, also."
Brodeur was supported by the Devils' characteristically strong team game, which produced 12 blocked shots. Johnny Oduya led New Jersey with three.
"Our players, it was funny, it was almost like winning a playoff game, they were just trying to chip the puck out, blocking shots, going everywhere," Brodeur said. "Definitely it was a great effort from my teammates for me to be able to break it today."
The Devils, who have won 12 of their last 14, visit Washington on Saturday. They return home to host Atlanta next Monday.
Finally, Brodeur's quest for the record is history.
"People bring it to my attention all the time because it is a big deal," he said. "It's understandable that reporters will ask me these kinds of questions, but I'm definitely happy that it's passed and now we're just going to play and we won't have to answer that question."
Salvador, who snapped a 58-game goal drought on Friday, picked up his second in three games to open the scoring in the first period. His shot from the left point was redirected by Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar into the top right corner of the net at 4:39.
Bergfors picked up his 12th of the season, and team-leading eighth on the power play, just 23 seconds into the second. With the Devils up a man on carryover time from Alex Goligoski's tripping minor, Bergfors took a Parise pass at the right circle and snapped the puck inside the left post to make it 2-0.
Parise's tenacious work around the net led to the Devils' next two scores. Fleury stopped his shortside jam attempt before McAmmond's follow up from the slot hit the right post. Elias pounced from the high slot to bury his eighth of the season at 8:27, and later added an assist to extend his points streak to eight games (5g-5a).
Later, Parise's backhand wraparound was denied by Fleury, and after McAmmond's swipe missed the rebound, Fraser jumped on the loose puck to net his second of the season at 11:03.
Fleury exited the contest having allowed four goals on 16 shots, and was relieved by Brent Johnson, who stopped all 14 shots he saw.
Brodeur made 14 saves in the third period against a Pittsburgh club (116) that entered the night's action second only to Washington (130) in goals scored. The Penguins were shutout for the fourth time and saw their winning streak snapped at five games.
To put Brodeur's shutout record in perspective, Detroit's Chris Osgood is second among active netminders with 50. Lemaire said this one might never be challenged.
"I think it will never be broken," said the coach. "It's hard for a goaltender. They do have a lot of pressure, and when your team is up there and you're trying to get into the playoffs. The run is tough for a goaltender, especially Marty. The thing is, most of the time he's in the net for 60 out of the 80 games. It demands a lot and now he's not as young as he used to (be). That's why I feel that he's so good, because he's getting older and he's still in the net mostly every game and doing well."
• Patrik Elias told MSG's Steve Cangialosi that Monday's game was much more than just another December tilt.
"This team is right there with us, they've been playing great, and they have a healthy squad," Elias said. "It was a big game for us to measure ourselves against them. Coming into their building and playing well, especially in the first two periods, that's very important. We're just having fun and taking it game by game. Everybody's contributing."
"During the national anthem in the building, it had that feeling of a playoff game, right off the bat," Rolston said. "We got quick goals on them and it seemed like we just kept the pressure on. We did a great job when they had a power play and Marty made, obviously, some huge saves. We did a good job killing, but a huge win for us against a real good team."
• With the Penguins moving to a new home next season, the Devils have played their final regular season game at Mellon Arena. Jersey's Team finished 45-33-3 all-time at the Igloo.
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