Devils 5, Hurricanes 0

Missing the playoffs last season gave Martin Brodeur and the New

Jersey Devils a fresh appreciation for getting back in.

Brodeur posted his 119th career shutout and the Devils clinched

a spot in the postseason with a 5-0 rout of the listless Carolina

Hurricanes on Saturday night.

”I didn’t think it was going to bother me that much (last year,

but) … I was like, `Wow, I’m really missing this atmosphere,”’

Brodeur said. ”This year, it was an important thing for me to go

out and try to get in the playoffs, to get back at it.”

Ilya Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists, Petr Sykora added a

goal and an assist, David Clarkson, Ryan Carter and Zach Parise

also scored, and Patrik Elias had two assists.

New Jersey scored three goals in a 3:50 span and had no trouble

after that while wrapping up a return to the playoffs after a

one-year absence.

Brodeur made 22 saves and moved one victory from having another

NHL record all to himself. His next win will give him 14 seasons

with at least 30 victories.

”Winning is what’s important, and if you get a shutout, most of

the time, you’ve got a win,” Brodeur said. ”It’s good to bring up

that number (119), kind of push the envelope for the next guy

coming trying to reach it. It doesn’t get old, regardless of how

you get them.”

Brian Boucher stopped 26 shots in his second appearance after

missing 43 games because of a groin injury. The Hurricanes have

lost four of five, and were playing 24 hours after an overtime loss

to Winnipeg eliminated them from the postseason race.

”The emotional letdown of not making the playoffs hit us,”

coach Kirk Muller said. ”It’s easy to say we’re going to go right

to the end, but I think, if anything, it obviously showed that guys

are disappointed and it affected our play tonight.”

The Devils entered needing just one point in their final four

games – or for Washington to miss out on a point – to sew up their

20th playoff berth in 22 seasons, and had an easy time earning it

and improving to 9-4-1 in its last 13 games.

”It’s step one,” New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer said. ”Now

that we’re in, you obviously want to make some noise. That’s where

we go from here.”

This one was decided in the final minute of the first period

with a sequence that helped put New Jersey up 2-0 early in the

second.

While skating in on Brodeur, Carolina’s Jeff Skinner was taken

down by Anton Volchenkov and the Carolina teenager responded a few

seconds later by drilling Volchenkov near the boards, drawing an

interference minor with 42.4 seconds left.

Clarkson scored on a one-timer from the slot with 21.5 seconds

to go. On his way out of the penalty box, Skinner was seen saying

something to an official – and was promptly sent back in for 2

minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The interference penalty was ”a tough play. He drops the puck

and I’m trying to be physical, I guess,” Skinner said. ”Probably

not the best time to go after that guy.”

He added that he couldn’t discuss the unsportsmanlike penalty

because ”that’s something that’s going to get me in trouble.”

Kovalchuk beat Boucher with a straightaway blast 1:44 into the

second – 6 seconds after Skinner’s penalty expired – for his

team-leading 34th goal.

”You play teams like this, they want to mentally break you

down,” Muller said. ”And I think as individuals, we’ve got a lot

of young guys and they’ve got to learn that this league is hard.

People are going to press your buttons. They’re going to push you

to the limit in every way you can, and it’s discipline that’s going

to be the key that gets you out of it.”

Things got out of hand 1:44 later, when Carter put the Devils’

next shot past the Carolina goalie on a 2-on-1. Sykora pushed it to

4-0 when he scored off a faceoff late in the second. By the time

Parise scored 1:15 into the third, the only question was whether

Brodeur would blank the Hurricanes for the ninth time in his

career.

”Regardless of what kind of pushback we got from the

Hurricanes, I thought we executed real well, what we needed to do

to be dominant in the game,” Brodeur said. ”We haven’t dominated

a game the way we did today.”

NOTES: Kovalchuk’s three-point night gave him 44 points in 30

career games in Raleigh. … Carolina has given up the first goal

in eight of its last 10 games. … Two of the best players in

Devils history were behind Carolina’s bench. Muller and assistant

John MacLean combined for 532 goals during their time on the ice

for New Jersey.