Brodeur Steals the Show
NEWARK, N.J. -- There were so many accolades and superlatives being directed toward the Kings' Jonathan Quick during the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final that it was hard to notice the future Hall of Fame goaltender in the crease at the other end of the rink.
The 40-year-old Martin Brodeur, however, is making his presence known when the Devils need him most.
For the second straight game, Brodeur rose to the occasion to keep New Jersey's season alive. He made 25 saves as the Devils brushed off elimination once again in a 2-1 victory against Los Angeles on Saturday at Prudential Center.
Is it possible that a goaltender with three Stanley Cup rings, two Olympic gold medals and four Vezina Trophies was getting lost in the shuffle?
"Yeah, definitely," Devils defenseman Mark Fayne said. "Even in those first two games, everybody was giving Quick all the credit and Marty was making great saves, keeping us in those games when we weren't playing that well. He was really the reason we got to overtime (in 2-1 losses in Games 1 and 2). Now, it's just showing up in the wins. He's been outstanding."
Remove Brodeur's performance in Game 3 in which he allowed four goals on 21 shots -- two of which came during the third period when the game was practically decided -- and his numbers are staggering. Brodeur has 1.38 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in the other four Final games.
Brodeur has allowed two goals on 48 shots since the Devils fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven series and was at his best early in Game 5 with his team giving away the puck like it was a charitable organization.
"Marty is the story of the Final so far. He's played unbelievable," Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk said. "I know for sure he's got a lot in him. He just enjoys this game and he keeps us in the game."
The Devils led 1-0 after the first period Saturday on Zach Parise's power-play goal at 12:45, but that opportunity likely wouldn't have been there without Brodeur's early brilliance.
Kings captain Dustin Brown treated Fayne like a traffic cone and skated around him for 1-on-1 chance with Brodeur in the game's first minute. But Brodeur bailed out his defenseman with a diving poke check that broke up the chance.
About seven minutes into the period, a breakdown behind the net led to Kings forward Jeff Carter having the puck on his stick at the left post. Again, Brodeur rescued his teammates with a stretching right pad stop to keep the game scoreless.
Brodeur made only seven saves in the first 20 minutes, but the two difficult ones in the first seven minutes kept the desperate Devils alive and left coach Peter DeBoer at a loss for words.
"I wish I was that eloquent that I had more ways to phrase it for you," DeBoer said. "I mean, what else can you say? His performance speaks for itself. It's the timing of it. I think the fact we're 10-1 in Games 4 through 7 in a series is a testament to how he enjoys that type of pressure.
"We played a real poor first period. I don't know why. I'd like to chalk it up to maybe nerves or being at home. I'm not sure. I give L.A. some credit. I thought they had a fantastic first period. But we can't afford to play 20 minutes of hockey like that again or we're playing with fire."
The only shot to beat Brodeur in Game 5 came from the stick of Justin Williams, who picked the top left corner of the net to bring the Kings into a 1-1 tie 3:26 into the second period. About 90 seconds later, the Kings had a chance to take the lead and perhaps a step toward sealing a series in which goals are at a premium.
Jarret Stoll stealthily slipped behind the Devils defense for a breakaway. Devils forward Stephen Gionta furiously backchecked to get his stick between Stoll's skates, but Brodeur had to drop into a two-pad stack to deny the hard shot.
"It was a great backcheck by Gio to not give him too much room," Kovalchuk said. "He gave him old school, two pads. It's nice. When he plays like that, it makes the whole team very comfortable. We can make plays along their blue line, so he gives us more confidence."
About five minutes later, offensive juggernaut Bryce Salvador gave the Devils a 2-1 lead with his fourth goal of the postseason after getting zero goals in 82 regular-season games. That just meant more opportunities for Brodeur to give his teammates a lift.
With the Kings on a power play midway through the second period, Brodeur made two golden saves on Williams around the crease and another on a Jeff Carter wrist shot from the left circle. Stoll knocked the rebound out of the air and past Brodeur, but did so illegally with a high stick.
Since Brodeur was unflappable, the Kings decided to try to ruffle his feathers in the third period.
After a save and whistle around his crease, Brodeur was accosted by Carter and Mike Richards. First, Richards delivered a shot to Brodeur's head that shook his goalie mask free. As Brodeur went back at Richards, Carter pulled Brodeur's jersey over his head.
Brodeur just smiled as he readjusted his equipment, a picture of calm and cool with the Devils' season on the brink.
"I got punched and my jersey got pulled over my head," Brodeur said. "I couldn't believe they didn't call any penalty. I'm enjoying this. They're fun games to be part of. They're tough mentally to go through them because we don't have any tomorrow or anything like that. But they're fun to be part of. I've been enjoying this ride. I will until we're done."
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Author: Dave Lozo | NHL.com Staff Writer