NEWARK, N.J. — Forget St. Patrick's Day. In New Jersey on Tuesday night they were celebrating St. Martin's Day.
The Devils' Martin Brodeur, the patron saint of goaltending to many in the crowd of 17,625 at the Prudential Center, set the NHL's all-time record for victories with his 552nd as New Jersey skated to a 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks.
Fans' cheering for Brodeur began when he was shown on the video screen during the national anthem, continued with each of his 30 saves and roared long after the game as he surpassed Patrick Roy's standard.
"It's kind of hard for any athlete to think they're going to get a record like that, especially for goaltending," Brodeur said. "This is the ultimate record … the most wins. I never thought it was going to be possible. It was an exciting night."
Brodeur was sharp in holding down the Hawks, who lost their third consecutive game and fifth in their last six. After trailing 3-0, the Hawks battled to cut the lead to 3-2 on goals by Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien, but couldn't complete the rally as Brodeur improved to 8-2-4 lifetime against them. It was the sixth consecutive game the Hawks have given up the first goal.
"It was definitely on our minds that we didn't want to be the team that gave up that win," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "At the same time, you have to respect and give credit Martin Brodeur. To us, on this side of things, it's not about that. We came out again and gave up a couple of goals early.
"We dug ourselves a hole again we couldn't get out of it. I'm speechless. I'm out of things to say. We worked hard but it just feels like we're battling against the grain."
The Devils wasted little time in staking Brodeur to a lead as Jamie Langenbrunner scored 38 seconds into the game on New Jersey's first shot. Langenbrunner took a pass from Zach Parise and fired a one-timer from between the circles past Hawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
New Jersey went ahead 2-0 only 5:23 later on a goal by Travis Zajac, also off a feed from Parise.
After Brian Gionta's short-handed goal later in the second gave the Devils a 3-0 lead, the Hawks finally solved Brodeur with 2:32 remaining in the period. With Toews and Troy Brouwer providing traffic in front, Barker's shot from inside the blue line beat Brodeur.
The Hawks kept coming and eventually cut the deficit to 3-2 on Byfuglien's goal with 2:03 remaining in the third. The winger fired a shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Brodeur's right shoulder.
"When we get down a couple of goals it's tough to come back against that team," said Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who had an assist on Barker's goal. "As much as we're frustrated, I feel like we're getting to where we need to be. It's been a slow process getting there. We worked hard [Tuesday night]. We had some shots."
Khabibulin, starting for the second consecutive game, made 27 saves but fell to 17-7-5 on the season.
"We made it exciting at the end," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Certainly, it was just the opposite start we wanted. We were behind again and we fought back to keep ourselves in the game."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun