New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur is sprayed with ice chips as he protects the goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Thursday, March 12, 2009, in Newark, N.J. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Bill Kostroun
MONTREAL - Martin Brodeur called it a perfect day.
The veteran goaltender made history in his home town by moving into a tie with Patrick Roy for the most career wins by an NHL goaltender with 551, as the New Jersey Devils downed the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 on Saturday night.
Brodeur, who received a long post-game ovation from the sellout crowd of 21,273, can break the record if he wins at home on Tuesday night, St. Patrick's Day, against the Chicago Blackhawks.
And best of all, Roy took time away from his job as head coach of the junior Quebec Remparts to be at the Bell Centre to see Brodeur equal his record. The 36-year-old has been chasing Roy's many records almost since he broke into the NHL in 1992.
"This is definitely the best setting there was for me to tie Patrick's record - in Montreal," said Brodeur. "With the attention of the media, people could get a taste of it.
"I don't want to offend anyone, but Montreal is what hockey's all about, and for me to be here for this, it's definitely a perfect day for me."
Roy, who retired in 2003 after winning two Stanley Cups each with Montreal and Colorado, said he wouldn't have missed it for the world.
"It was important for me to come and talk to him and express to him how happy I am for him," said Roy. "I know how hard he had to work to get there. He deserves it all.
"I'm very happy to be here to see that moment. I think it's great for the game of hockey."
As the final siren sounded, a teammate flipped him the game puck and Brodeur was mobbed in front of his goal.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner credited his teammates with helping to keep him focused on hockey amid all the excitement his chase for the record has brought.
"The game was so tight it didn't really occur to me what was going on," he said. "I just wanted to stay in the game.
"But when we scored that third goal, then I started thinking 'wow, it's happening.' That was probably the toughest part, but being a close game helped me get through it."
Patrick Elias and Brian Rolston scored in the first period and Jamie Langenbrunner iced the win with a goal in the third for New Jersey (45-20-3), which remained six points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.
Tomas Plekanec scored for Montreal (36-25-9), which is now 1-1-1 since general manager Bob Gainey replaced the fired Guy Carbonneau behind the bench. The Canadiens were outshot 48-23 and were booed lustily by fans.
"We had times when we had a good attack going, but after that third goal, they showed us how to play with a lead," said Gainey.
Brodeur's father Denis, a professional photographer, was seated behind the glass near the goal line with his cameras to record his son's historic moment, although his mother, who never watches her son play, stayed home.
It appeared that Brodeur would get his win easily when the Canadiens took five minor penalties in the opening period, including two for delay of game, and the Devils scored twice on the power play.
Elias blasted in a point shot on a two-man advantage 5:27 into the game and Rolston fired a bullet from the left point that caught the top corner at 11:08. Elias had points on both goals, which put him into a tie with John MacLean, now a Devils assistant coach, for the team record of 701 career points.
But Plekanec closed the gap when he beat Brodeur with a short wrist shot from the right side for his 20th of the season at 12:29.
It was Montreal's Jaroslav Halak who shone in the goal in the second frame as New Jersey outshot the home side 18-11, but Brodeur needed a quick move with his right pad to prevent Maxim Lapierre from tying the game from the edge of the crease eight minutes in.
Montreal threatened again early in the third, but some energetic forechecking saw Travis Zajac feed Langenbrunner in front for a high shot to the glove side with 7:03 remaining to play.
"We came here to win a game and I think that helped me keep things in perspective," said Brodeur. "The attitude of our players was that it wasn't a big deal.
"My teammates barely talked to me about it and that helped me get through these things."
Notes: Montreal defenceman Patrice Brisebois became the 12th player in Canadiens history to play 1,000 NHL games. Brisebois' career began in 1991. The all-time team leader is 1,256 by Henri Richard. ... Alex Kovalev sat out a second game with a flu, while Ryan O'Byrne was scratched for Montreal. ...Jay Pandolfo was scratched for a third straight game, while Jay Leach and Andy Greene also didn't play for the Devils.