NEWARK, N.J. - Marty's back, as good as ever.
Martin Brodeur recorded his 99th career regular-season shutout, making 24 saves in his first game since elbow surgery in early November and the New Jersey Devils beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 on Thursday night. "It was an exciting night to get out there and perform," Brodeur said. "I was really anxious all day, more nervous that I thought I was going to be. We pulled it off.
"It was nice to score early in the game. I didn't get much work. It was a nice game to play."
Brodeur posted his third shutout in 11 games this season to move within four of Terry Sawchuk's regular-season career mark of 103, and reached 545 victories to close within six of tying Patrick's Roy's NHL record.
The four-time Vezina Trophy winner as hockey's best goalie was greeted by a standing ovation from fans when he stepped onto the ice for the warmups and they cheered every time he touched the puck, even when he simply directed it to the corner.
"The fans were great," Brodeur said. "I don't know if they were sarcastic about cheering me on the saves sometimes, but it was definitely nice."
Despite missing 50 games after having surgery to repair a torn biceps in his left elbow, Brodeur was very sharp. He got a gimme on his first save, a shot from centre ice by Chris Stewart about six minutes into the contest.
The Avalanche had their chances, though.
Milan Hejduk forced Brodeur to make a very good pad save with nine minutes left in the period and he also tested the 15-year veteran with a rebound late in the period.
Brodeur made a sliding save on Ben Guite early in the second period and he somehow got in front of a power-play chance by Wojtek Wolski later in the period.
Wolski would beat Brodeur on a short-handed chance just minutes later, but the puck hit off iron and bounced away.
"The elbow was great," Brodeur said. "I didn't feel anything all game long. I tested it a couple of times, especially getting up and moving across.
"In the middle of the second, I made a couple of saves, going left and right, moving across. It was good."
Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac scored, but the night belonged to Brodeur. He even dreamed about his performance the night before.
Of course, it was a shutout.
"You just go out there and play," Brodeur said. "Sometimes it happens. I never really think about it and I don't want to jinx myself thinking about shutouts."
Other than the opening shift of the final period and on a power play late, Brodeur had little work in the third period.
All he had to do late was listen to the crowd chant "Mar-tee! Mar-tee!" and then have it go wild when he was selected the No. 1 star of the game.
Langenbrunner gave Brodeur the only goal he would need 4:38 after the opening faceoff.
Parise intercepted a pass by Ian Laperriere in the Devils' zone and quickly passed it to Zajac who pushed the puck to Langenbrunner coming down the right wing.
Langenbrunner let a slapshot go from the right circle and it beat Andrew Raycroft between the pads for his 19th goal of the season.
Elias got a little lucky getting his 24th goal on a power play at 8:43 of the second period.
Defenceman Paul Martin took a pass from Parise and fired the puck to the right of the net. It bounced off the end boards and came right back in front to Elias, who backhanded it home.
Parise, tied with Jeff Carter of Philadelphia for No. 2 in goals this season, powered his way past Colorado defenceman Adam Foote in the third period and beat Raycroft in close.
Zajac closed out the scoring with 3:13 to play after the Devils kept the puck in the Avalanche zone for about a minute straight.
Foote wasn't surprised that the Brodeur and his teammates were primed for the game.
"I don't think we gave him a good test, that's for sure," Foote said. "He is going to make the saves we gave him. You knew he was going to make those. I don't think we made it too difficult for him."
The loss was the third straight for Colorado and 11th in 16 games.
"Things are not going our way, definitely, pretty much the whole year," Hejduk said. "We were eight points out of playoff spot before tonight and it's an uphill battle and it's frustrating."
Notes: The Avalanche had killed off a season-high 18 consecutive penalties before Elias scored on the power play. ... Laperriere's fighting penalty in the second period pushed him over 100 minutes in penalties for the fourth straight year and his 12th overall. ... Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes had two shutouts in the 50 games Brodeur was sidelined. Brodeur had missed only 12 games due to injury in his previous 14 seasons.