Brodeur bounces back to post shutout

Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save as Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann looks on during...

Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur makes a save as Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann looks on during Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., April 19, 2012. (RAY STUBBLEBINE/Reuters)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:36 PM ET

NEWARK - The old man and the C.

Against the Florida Panthers Thursday night, the New Jersey Devils were led by Martin Brodeur, their soon-to-be 40-year-old netminder, and captain Zach Parise in a game that both, a day earlier, had called a must-win.

Brodeur made 26 saves for his 24th shutout in the playoffs, establishing an NHL record, and Parise, who hit everything in a white sweater and scored the winning goal, played like a man possessed.

Buoyed by a raucous sold out crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center, the Devils registered a 4-0 victory to tie the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal 2-2 and give themselves the momentum heading into Game 5 Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla.

“He is the heartbeat of our team,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, referring to Parise. “He sets the tone for us. He leads and everyone follows. When your captain is your hardest-working player, he drags people with him. It’s a great situation to be in as a coach.

“(And) that was vintage Marty Brodeur. We have come to expect that around here.”

Pulled in Game 3 for just the sixth time in the playoffs in his legendary career, Brodeur sat at his locker Thursday morning and couldn't have been more relaxed as he talked to reporters. But with no interest in heading south in a 3-1 hole, Brodeur was focused and sharp throughout the game, leaving any doubters feeling somewhat foolish.

Brodeur, who turns 40 on May 6, got lucky when the Panthers’ Sean Bergenheim hit the post in the first period, but otherwise was in top form and looked more composed than he did in the first three games of the series.

Brodeur had been tied for the NHL lead in playoff shutouts with the retired Patrick Roy.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on some great defensive teams, and I’m a product of that,” Brodeur said. “It just felt good to play well and get a win and get back in the series. We showed a lot of character.”

The Devils’ win was the most complete victory by either team in any game of the series, which has been getting more physical as it has progressed.

After the Devils spent the first period pasting Panthers all over the ice (led by Parise and 5-foot-7 Stephen Gionta), Parise staked New Jersey to a 1-0 lead in the second when he deflected a shot past Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen, who made his first NHL post-season start.

The Devils piled on in the third, putting the game to bed with goals from Steve Bernier, Travis Zajac and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Most importantly, the Devils got their penalty killing in order. The Panthers came up short on six power-play chances Thursday after scoring six times on 10 opportunities in the previous three games.

The Panthers were hurt when defenceman Jason Garrison was a late scratch because of a lower-body injury, and then were further decimated when his replacement, Keaton Ellerby, left with a lower-body injury in the second.

“We didn’t seem to have the desperation they had even though we were down one goal,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “It seemed we were out of sorts in the third and couldn’t establish our offensive game. We made it an easy game for (Brodeur).”

Though the Panthers have two of the next three games at home — if there are three games left in this series — they’re going to have to regain confidence quickly.

The Devils, if nothing else, demonstrated they could be just hitting their stride in a series that many picked them to win.

“You’re down to the end here,” DeBoer said. “The rubber hits the road. It’s two out of three and emotions are high.

“I like our situation.”

terry.koshan@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/koshtorontosun


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