Devils 4, Penguins 0
Martin Brodeur broke the NHL record with his 104th career shutout, and maybe the only surprise was how easily it came against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Brodeur needed to make only a few difficult saves while breaking Terry Sawchuk's shutout record, further strengthening his case to be considered as the best goaltender to play the game, and the streaking New Jersey Devils had little trouble beating Pittsburgh 4-0 on Monday night.
Brodeur made 35 saves to break the coveted shutout record only two games after setting the NHL record for regular-season appearances by a goaltender. The shutout record came in his 1,032nd game over 16 seasons, all with the Devils.
Brodeur has long been compared to the game's greats, and for obvious reasons - no other current-day goalie can begin to compare to the 37-year-old, who is the only active player in the top 22 on the shutout list. He has three shutouts this season and six in his career against Pittsburgh. He broke the record two weeks after beating Buffalo 3-0 on Dec. 7 to tie it.
Brodeur is the NHL's winningest goalie with 580 wins, and he is 23-8-1 this season.
His latest shutout came only two days after he was pulled after the first period during a rare off night, the Devils' 5-4 victory over Atlanta on Saturday during which he left after allowing three goals in the first.
Brodeur, as he so often does, made this one look easy as the Devils gave him plenty of support by taking a 1-0 lead in the first before scoring three times in the second to chase Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury has been playing as well as any NHL goalie other than Brodeur with a 10-1-1 record and 1.80 goals-against average in 12 games, but he was yanked after allowing four goals on 16 goals.
Pittsburgh came into matchup between the NHL's two best-record teams with a five-game winning streak and a 13-2-1 record in the last 16 games, only to be dominated by New Jersey at home for the third time this season. The Devils outscored the Penguins 12-2 in winning all three games at Mellon Arena, where they won't play again unless the teams meet in the playoffs.
Patrik Elias scored his fourth goal in five games and Dean McAmmond and Zach Parise had three assists each as the Devils won their fourth in a row to improve to an NHL-best 26-8-1. They won their fifth in a row, ninth in 10 games and 12th in 14, and are 27-9-1 in Pittsburgh since March 4, 1997.
Brodeur might be one of the few visiting players unhappy to see the cramped, aging Mellon Arena shut down after this season, given his 16-4 record there in his last 20 games.
Brodeur's toughest save probably came with the teams skating 4 on 4 and the Devils up 2-0 early in the second. Evgeni Malkin got loose on a short breakaway, but Brodeur easily turned aside his shot and was barely tested after that.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a good chance to end the shutout with about 90 seconds remaining, but his shot struck the right post. Brodeur made a glove-hand save on Jordan Staal's in-close shot with 42 seconds remaining.
Staal left a pool of blood on the ice after being struck in the face by a puck about seven minutes into the second period, but returned early in the third wearing a full face shield.
New Jersey, a league-best 13-2-1 on the road this season, took the lead on an unlikely goal by Bryce Salvador, whose wrist shot from the left point eluded Fleury - who may have been screened by teammate Sergei Gonchar - 4:39 into the game. Salvador had only one other goal this season.
The Devils made it 2-0 with a similar goal by Niclas Bergfors on a power play 23 seconds into the second, his 12th. Bergfors' shot from the right point sailed under the crossbar as Fleury appeared to be screened by defenseman Brooks Orpik.
Elias scored his eighth of the season and fifth in eight games to finish a Devils flurry later in the second, and defenseman Mark Fraser scored his second of the season to make it 4-0 at 11:03 of the period.