Brodeur, Devils provide alternate ending to 1994 script in Game 6
NEWARK, N.J. -- Forget the silver hairs, the gaudy résumé dragging along the floor, the questions about age and even the ghosts he thought he'd buried long ago; Martin Brodeur stood tall with a legend's prescience and saved his case of the yips for a postgame leap into a pile of teammates.
"I can jump," he said later.
When you are a goalie with three Stanley Cups, 656 wins, two Olympic gold medals, trophies, records and everything a goalie could hope for, you can do anything you want, especially if you can turn back the clock -- not to 1994; more like 1995 -- and lead your team to another Stanley Cup finals.
Go ahead, leap onto a pile of players. Act like 22-year-old Adam Henrique, who just scored the overtime winner for the 3-2 victory, instead of the 40-year-old relic who is supposed to be too jaded to care and too aged to leap.
"As good as it gets," Brodeur said. "As good as anything."
Why that good? Flash back to a year ago when the Devils were done by midseason. There were whispers that the Brodeur era was really over. No, flash further back, way back, to 1994, Brodeur's rookie year, when the Rangers wrote a Broadway script, filled with a captain's bold guarantee and a stunning rally in the sixth game in New Jersey. For 39 of 40 players, that was a history page from a library book; for Brodeur it was like a piece of gum on his shoe. That again? Really?
"We've won three Stanley Cups since then," he said Friday night. The first, in 1995 took him all of one season. "Still, winning against them on a big stage, not just for me, but for the fans, we made a lot of people happy by beating them."
And it was also a chance for Brodeur to remind people that for all the talk about Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, a Hart Trophy finalist, the older guy in Jersey wasn't finished. Brodeur made 33 saves. Some were highlight material -- the stacked-pad sprawl against Brad Richards in the third period, for instance -- but many were just an affirmation of cool.
"Calming influence. He gives us a chance to win every game," Devils captain Zach Parise said. "When they put the pressure on, the guy makes big saves. He's been through it all the time."
It was especially true over the last two periods, when the Rangers outshot the Devils 21-12, and Brodeur kept his team alive.
"In my head," Brodeur said, "the overtime started in the third period."
For history buffs, fans of déjà vu and believers in ghosts and guarantees, there were eerie reminders -- hopeful or morbid depending on your perspective -- of 1994. ("We Will Analogize Tonight.")
That year, as in 2012, the teams split the two games in New York. The Rangers won the third and the Devils the fourth in New Jersey. The Devils then won the fifth at MSG, setting up a potential clincher at home. Before that game, Rangers captain Mark Messier gave his famed guarantee of victory, which came to pass when the Devils blew a two-goal lead and the captain scored a hat trick to tie the series before New York won game 7 in double overtime.
This Game 6, the Devils jumped to a familiar 2-0 lead. First, midway through the first period, the Devils called upon their fourth line, solid throughout the spring. Forward Steve Bernier pushed the puck past a pinching Marc Staal at the Devils' blueline. Bernier then broke down the right side on another odd-man rush and slipped a pass to Stephen Gionta, who sped in along on Lundqvist. The Rangers goalie made the initial save on the breakaway, but Ryan Carter slapped the rebound in at the doorstep. On the play, the forwards on the Rangers' fourth line -- Mike Rupp, Brandon Prust and Brian Boyle -- all lagged behind the play.
Four minutes later, the Devils scored a more conventional goal from their top power-play until with Ruslan Fedotenko off for tripping. The Devils worked an effective cycle near New York's goal line, avoiding the Rangers' block and finishing when Ilya Kovalchuk converted Parise's pass at the front door on Lundqvist's right side.
In 1994, New York cut the lead in half, thanks to a second-period goal by Russian sniper Alex Kovalev. This year it was Fedotenko -- OK he's Ukrainian, but remember the script -- who cut the margin at 9:47, jamming a goalmouth pass from Ryan McDonagh behind Brodeur. In 1994, it was Messier, then Rangers captain, scoring the next goal to tie the game and, well, there was the current captain, Ryan Callahan, deflecting Dan Girardi's wrist shot into the net four minutes later to tie the score. It was the second straight game in which the soccer wannabe scored a goal with his feet.
After the third period, the resilient Rangers seemed to have the Devils reeling.
"We could feel it on our bench," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "We felt very confident on our bench."
These didn't look much like the Rangers who imploded in Game 5, when Marian Gaborik, their top scorer, fired wide at a gaping net early in the game, and Richards, their smartest player, fired an accidental snapshot at Lundqvist in the third period, perhaps the goalie's best save of the night. No, this looked like the team whose coach always said, "We find a way."
But really that has been the season story of the Devils, from the great contributions they received from every part of their bench to the goalie who seems younger to the rookie Henrique, who seems older. The 22-year old already scored a series-winner against Florida (Game 7) to help his team get here. Then, on Friday, a minute into the extra session, sticks swung at shadows as a loose puck scooted under legs in the Rangers' crease. Lundqvist couldn't squeeze the puck. Richards knelt behind his keeper at the goal line for insurance, but for just an instant the puck peeked out from the mess, and Henrique knocked it around the double block with one swat.
"One more step," the savvy rookie said. "I want to know what it's like [to win a Cup] so I don't have to ask Marty."