Devils win behind Brodeur's 120th career shutout

Jim Hague, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- It was the 658th time in his sure-fire Hall of Fame and storied career that Martin Brodeur sat at his locker after a victory. It was also the 120th time that Brodeur posted a shutout, extending both NHL records.
But they're just numbers now for the 40-year-old Brodeur, who was victorious once again Tuesday night, helping the New Jersey Devils to a 3-0 shutout victory over the rival Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center.
"The numbers are all good, but this was a long time coming," said Brodeur, who stopped 21 shots to lead the 2-0 Devils to victory in their home opener. "We had a great run in the playoffs last year and then it was over. I didn't know how the fans were going to respond. But they showed tremendous support like they always have."
Brodeur was concerned about the reaction after the nearly four-month layoff because of the owners' lockout.
"Hockey is back in New Jersey, that's for sure," Brodeur said. "It was a big win."
Travis Zajac, David Clarkson and Ilya Kovalchuk (on a penalty shot) scored goals for the Devils, who won for the 17th time in 30 home openers.
The Devils are 17-8-5 in home openers but won for the first time in an opener at the Prudential Center. The Devils are now 1-3-1 in home openers in Newark.
Kovalchuk, who arrived late for the abbreviated training camp, had a goal and an assist for the winners.
"It was important to get off to a good start here," Kovalchuk said. "It was good to get the (penalty shot) opportunity and it was a great chance to score. The key to the game was Marty (Brodeur) playing like a 20-year-old. He gave us a lot of confidence."
It was also the fifth straight win for the Devils over the Flyers. The Devils won the final four games of the Eastern Conference semifinal series a year ago, taking the series in five games.
The Flyers have dropped their first three games and are 0-3 for the first time since 2008. It's only the third time in Flyers history that they started a season with three losses. The Flyers didn't lose three straight games all season a year ago.
"It's not time to panic because that's a bad feeling," said Flyers goalkeeper Ilya Bryzgalov, who made 23 saves. "We definitely have to change things up a little and add something. All we need is one win. That's all we need to get the first one, then the next one. If we scored early, things would have been different. We were trying to beat the Brodeur mystique and that's hard."
The Devils had the better of the action in the first period, scoring twice, with the first goal coming just 1:07 into the game and the second in the final minute.
In the opening stages, Dainius Zubrus made a fine play up the right wing, pushing the puck off the boards past two defenders, then spotted Zubrus behind the net. Zubrus' first shot was stopped by Flyers goalkeeper Ilya Brzygalov, but Zubrus stayed with the play and tucked the backhand off the rebound past Bryzgalov for the 1-0 lead at the 1:07 mark. Newly appointed Devils captain Bryce Salvador was also credited with an assist on Zajac's second goal of the season.
Brodeur made two fine saves in the first period, with the best coming on a slap shot from a wide-open Scott Laughton from the blue line. The Devils, who were among the NHL's best in killing power-play opportunities last year, killed two Flyers power plays in the period.
The Devils pushed the lead to 2-0 in the closing minute of the period after Braydon Coburn was sent to the penalty box for interference.
Just nine seconds after the penalty, Clarkson pushed the puck in front of the goal and the puck rebounded off the skate of Ruslan Fedotenko for a 2-0 lead with just 24.9 seconds remaining in the period.
The Devils had a rarity when referee Jean Hebert whistled Kimmo Timonen for a penalty while Kovalchuk was on a breakaway.
A penalty shot was given to Kovalchuk while the Devils were playing short-handed. Kovalchuk used his backhand to get the puck past Bryzgalov at 2:44 of the second period. It was the first time the Devils scored on a penalty shot while short-handed since Zach Parise did it Oct. 21, 2011, against San Jose.
Kovalchuk's first goal of the year gave the Devils a commanding 3-0 lead. It was his third penalty shot goal in four career attempts.
"I think the refs are going to call more penalty shots now," Kovalchuk said. "It was good to put the game away there."
The third period featured a host of penalties on both sides and few scoring chances. The Flyers were called for five penaltiesand the Devils four.
With 7:53 left, the Devils had a five-on-three advantage when Claude Giroux was called for a slash and Nicklas Grossmann was whistled for delay of game, inadvertently firing the puck over the glass while trying to clear. However, the Devils had a two-man power play for only a minute because Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky was called for interference in front of the goal, eliminating that scoring chance.
"We can't let that happen again," Kovalchuk said. "We have to take advantage of those opportunities with a two-man advantage."
In the shortened and compacted season, every win is crucial. Brodeur recognized that.
"When you beat them once, they have to beat you twice to get ahead of you," Brodeur said. "They're a good team. They're going to win their share of games. We took advantage of this one."
That's because the man between the pipes was sharp and alert and not playing like a 40-year-old.
"Marty stood on his head," Salvador said. "We just followed along. It was a team effort, but Marty kept us in it."
NOTES: The Devils returned to the Prudential Center for the first time since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Los Angeles Kings in June. In true fashion of the team's president/general manager/chief operating officer Lou Lamoriello, there was no pomp and circumstance to celebrate the team's Eastern Conference championship. There was no banner-raising ceremony at all. ... Stefan Matteau impressed the Devils' brass so much that the 18-year-old 2011 first-round pick made the final roster. The younger Matteau was only three months old when his father, Stefane, scored his famous goal for the New York Rangers against the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals in 1994. The goal lifted the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals en route to the Cup. ... The entire Devils roster was announced during the pregame with Brodeur receiving the loudest ovation. The reaction to Kovalchuk was lukewarm; Kovalchuk did not report to the Devils on time, instead remaining in Russia to play in the KHL All-Star game. ... Brodeur about the fans' reaction to the first home game: "Understandably, the fans were hurt by the whole lockout thing. It was something that was not easy on us players or the owners. I know there are people who have spent their whole lives watching us and cheering for us. They're hurt." But one would never think the fans were hurt at all by the sellout crowd and enthusiastic turnout on Tuesday. ... Flyers right winger Danny Briere is still not healthy enough to skate and was a scratch Tuesday night. ... Devils second-year defenseman Adam Larsson was also scratched.

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