EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker)—The New Jersey Devils are grateful to Jacques Lemaire for all that he has done for them, but that does not mean they wanted to lose to their former coach.
Martin Brodeur needed just 19 saves to make history and Jamie Langenbrunner tallied the eventual game-winner in the third period to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild.
Brodeur, who has won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Devils, became the first goaltender in NHL annals with eight straight 30-win seasons. He leads the league in wins and is second in goal-against average while helping New Jersey to the second-best point total in the Eastern Conference. The Devils trail the Ottawa Senators by one point.
“I’m up for anything,” said Brodeur, when asked if he could win MVP honors in the league. “It doesn’t really change much in my life either. They’re fun to get. Just to be recognized and talked about is flattering. I play to have fun and to be successful and that’s the reason why I committed myself to staying in New Jersey. But I don’t get worked up much about these things.”
“Everybody was on the same page,” New Jersey coach Pat Burns said. “I thought everybody played the same game, which you had to against this team. We knew it was going to be tough. We played hard and we played well.”
New Jersey also remained undefeated against Lemaire, who fell to 0-3-1 against the team he led to its first Stanley Cup in 1995 and two Atlantic Division titles in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
“You always think about it, especially when you have good memories of the past,” Lemaire said. “At the anthem, I was looking at the banners. It was fun; good memories.”
“He’s been a big part of my career,” Bordeur said. “He’s the guy who gave me a chance to play in the NHL. His team is well coached, just like we were back then and they’re doing real well. But it was just another game - a game where we tried to erase our loss against Atlanta, and we did that.”
Elias is happy to see his former coach’s team among the playoff contenders in the Western Conference. The Wild set a franchise record with their 27th win on Friday.
“Jacques was my first coach when I arrived,” Elias said. “It’s good to see that he is doing well,” he said. “They have a lot of young guys, a good mix together.”
“Gaborik’s a young player,” Burns said. “He’s going to get better and better with age. He’s going to understand how to get away from that. Right now he’s got to get some experience.”
White opened the scoring with 4:02 left in the first period just seconds after Minnesota killed off a double-minor for high sticking by defenseman Lubomir Sekeras. White cranked a high, hard slapshot through traffic from the right point that deflected off the crossbar into the net.
Elias doubled New Jersey’s advantage at 3:06 of the second. He accepted a quick pass from Scott Gomez in the Minnesota zone, stopped, eluded Sekeras and snapped a shot past Roloson.
“Gomez just saw me streaking from our zone,” Elias said. “He made a great pass. I’m sure that he knew that I was going there. I just tried to get it on net and it went in.”
The Wild got on the scoreboard four minutes later. With rookie left wing Christian Berglund in the penalty box for boarding, Gaborik’s wrist shot from the right circle glanced off Jason Marshall and went to Bouchard, who wristed the puck over Brodeur’s glove hand.
Langenbrunner, a Minnesota native, scored his 15th goal with 8:31 left in the third period, giving New Jersey a 3-1 lead. From between the faceoff circles, he redirected Brian Rafalski’s shot from the blueline past Roloson, who appeared to be screened.
Pascal Dupuis notched his 13th just overtwo minutes later to pull Minnesota within a goal. Darby Hendrickson won a draw in the offensive zone back to Nick Schultz, who fired a slap shot from the left point. Brodeur made the stop, but the rebound went between Dupuis’ feet and he whipped the puck into the net.
But the Wild were unable to get Roloson out of the net for an extra skater until just 20 seconds remaining.
“They’ve got everything - size, skill, speed,” Gaborik said. “We had to work hard to get some chances. Unfortunately, we lost the game but we played hard till the end.”
New Jersey lost captain Scott Stevens with about three minutes left in game after he blocked a shot from Dupuis and hobbled to the bench. Stevens did not play thereafter, but he said he could have returned if it was necessary.
The game got a bit chippy at the buzzer as White cross-checked Wild center Darby Hendrickson, touching off a minor scrum.