Brodeur Turns Back the Clock as Devils Nip Ducks

Devils — 3                Anaheim — 2

The Anaheim Ducks that invaded the Prudential Center on Friday night were no longer mighty as they were in 2003, and New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is now 39, not 30, but he was the best player on the ice (36 saves) in his team’s 3-2 shootout win, just as he was in the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals. “He was great, he was our best player,” said Devils coach Pete DeBoer after his team’s second win in a row. “They are a difficult team to play against right now and he was our best player tonight and that’s why we won.”

New Jersey squandered a 2-0 lead on the resilient Californians, who have been burning up the NHL lately after a shaky start that cost their coach his job, culminating with ex-Devil Sheldon Brookbank scoring the game-tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation.

After a scoreless opening period, rookie Adam Henrique gave the Devils a 1-0 lead 85 seconds into the second period when he collected a rebound off of Anaheim goaltender Jonas Hiller’s pad and slid the puck past his outstretched toe for his 15th goal of the season. Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a lot of energy during the match, fired the initial shot after some strong forechecking by Henrique and Zach Parise. “Zach took the puck away from the guy and found me in the middle of the slot,” said Kovalchuk, “I shot it and it went right to Henny; he has great hands and he put it in.”

Alexei Ponikarovsky made it 2-0 for New Jersey at 10:56 after shoveling a nifty pass from Dainius Zubrus past Hiller for his 3rd goal in 11 games since being acquired from Carolina. “Zubie is a pretty skilled guy,” said Ponikarovsky, “a guy of his caliber compliments my game well, and that’s why we scored.” Just over five minutes later Corey Perry got the Ducks on the board with his 29th, a backhanded rebound shot of Ryan Getzlaf’s one-timer echoing blast off of Brodeur’s leg pad.

Perry nearly netted his second of the game on a shorthanded breakaway with 6:30 left in the third period, but Brodeur denied him with a sprawling save to momentarily preserve his squad’s one-goal lead. That was a key save when Brookbank scored only his second career goal (ending a 166 games goalless drought) four minutes later to send the game into sudden-death overtime.

Getzlaf appeared to end the game 1:10 into the tiebreaker when the puck went off his skate and past Brodeur’s goal line, setting off a celebration with all of his teammates mobbing him in the corner. But the Devils requested and got the play reviewed, and eventually reversed as the league ruled that the Anaheim captain directed the puck into the net intentionally with his skate.

Still undecided after five minutes of overtime, the shootout began with Kovalchuk racing in and beating Hiller with a quick wrist shot through the five-hole; Teemu Selanne responded for the Ducks as he deked and flipped a shot past a sliding Brodeur to even the score. “Selanne,” admitted Brodeur, “after six hundred and something goals I should know his moves, I guess I didn’t do my homework on him.”

Parise’s wrist shot was denied by Hiller in round two, and Perry’s shot rang off the post and sailed wide, sending the teams still tied into round three. Patrik Elias snapped a shot through Hiller for New Jersey and Getzlaf was denied on his attempt by Brodeur’s leg pad, clinching the victory for the Devils. “I don’t see these guys (Perry and Getzlaf) too often, but I played with them in the Olympics,” said Brodeur. “I have a little bit of a book on them, I know they like to get close to you and shoot it, they are so skilled and so quick; I just tried to time myself with them on those.”

Game Notes: Perry, last year’s Rocket Richard Trophy (most goals) winner, now has goals/points in each of his last four games. Every player on Anaheim had at least one shot on goal, led by Perry’s five; Kovalchuk led all players with six shots on goal and only three players on New Jersey failed to record a shot (Zubrus, Bryce Salvador, Anton Volchenkov). Salvador led all skaters in ice-time with 26:28 and Ducks d-man Francois Beauchemin led his team with 25:42. Devils winger David Clarkson led all players with five hits and Volchenkov led all players with four blocked shots. New Jersey (33-20-4) is off until Sunday when they play in Montreal (24-25-10) and Anaheim (24-24-10) will also be in action that day in Florida (27-19-11).

Dan’s 3 Stars of the Game:
#1 — Martin Brodeur (NJ) — 36 saves, win (20-13-2)
#2 — Jonas Hiller (Ana) — 25 saves, ot loss (21-19-10)
#3 — Corey Perry (Ana) — goal (29)

Dan Rice can be reached at drdiablo321@yahoo.com.

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