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Brodeur's bad break isn't a big deal

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- So what's a guy to do? Dig a hole in the crease and crawl in it? Go into denial, as if what the whole darned world saw didn't happen at all?

If you're Martin Brodeur, you grin and bear it. And you manage to joke about it later. Of course, if you act as if your uncharacteristic puck-handling gaffe and the Game 3 loss to the Mighty Ducks were a cataclysmic combination, it can cause some -- including your teammates -- to infer you are viewing this as something other than what it was.

A blip.

A pothole in the parade route.

Something you can laugh about now, but especially later.

"I was going to try to play it,'' Brodeur said of Sandis Ozolinsh's dump-in from the blueline late in the second period. "The stick just slipped out of my hand ... I was going to look at the puck, and it just went through my legs.''

His teammates were nice about it.

"They were laughing at me,'' Brodeur said, then laughed himself. "You didn't think it was funny? I thought it was funny. It's definitely not fun to get scored on like that, but it's something you can't control. I didn't want to drop my stick there, and he just hit it. What are you going to do? You have to move on.''

The most shocking aspect of the play, of course, is that when Brodeur plays the puck, it is rarely either an adventure or a misadventure. He is adept at it, and his work with the puck is an asset to this team. He is no Patrick Roy, in other words, who never could be convinced that he courted disaster when he overhandled the puck.

This receded into the shadows when Colorado ended up winning the series, but Roy's botched handling of the puck behind the net in Game 4 of the 2001 finals against the Devils led to a gift Jay Pandolfo goal and could have proven the difference-maker in the series. And then Roy's Statue of Liberty blunder against the Red Wings in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals proved to be more costly, and ultimately memorable in the mostly sterling career punctuated by championship successes.

"It happens to the best of the goaltenders," said New Jersey coach Pat Burns, who has been grumpier than any of the Seven Dwarfs during this series -- even in victory. "It's not the end of the world."

But that kind of play in the finals?

"Have you been watching them all?" Burns retorted. "A fellow by the name of Patrick Roy never did that? I remember him grabbing one and throwing it right back into the slot."

Brodeur even was asked to compare the play to Roy's misplay against the Devils two years ago.

"Well, I didn't have any control of that puck," Brodeur said. "I never really touched it of my own will."

The test after such inept plays, of course, is the resiliency of spirit displayed, and Brodeur responded with a terrific third period to keep the Devils in the game before he was beaten by Ruslan Salei's one-timer off Adam Oates' faceoff win in overtime.

Roy often went into denial, or at least expressed only begrudging acknowledgment of such grievous -- and obvious -- mistakes. The man chasing his records handles it differently. Of course, Brodeur also was coming off two consecutive shutouts in the opening two games of the series, so it's not as if he has been a stiff so far.

"It's not easy to allow a goal like that and come back as strong as we did," Brodeur said. "We did that, and it proves a lot when you don't get affected by a little bad bounce. I came back and I thought I had a pretty darned good third period.

"Adversity is huge in the playoffs. It's how you deal with the adversity you're facing every night. It could come with injuries, it could come with bad bounces like that, or bad calls from the referees, or goals that go in that don't count. It could be anything. You have to respond well. It happens for a reason and you move on. We have a lot of experience, and we felt that wasn't going to beat us. It didn't. We were able to get back in the game and give it a shot in overtime."

But Salei got the shot that won it.

Brodeur said he was anticipating that Salei would "go high. In Game 2, he had the same opportunity off the faceoff, and he went high on the blocker side. I wanted to take an extra step to get in better position, and he just fired really hard, low. When you move, it's hard to react low. I was expecting the shot higher.''

Ozolinsh, for his part, laughingly said the only stranger goal he has scored in his career came "in my own net." He was referring to the time he slid the puck toward his own goaltender on a delayed penalty in 1998. Of course, that's when Ozolinsh was playing for Colorado, and the goaltender was Patrick Roy -- who already was on the bench for a sixth attacker.

This time, Ozolinsh said, "I was trying to make a play at first, carrying up the puck through the middle. I felt so many sticks on my body, I decided to put it deep and go for a change. I didn't even see where the puck went. I was just trying to get it in the corner to keep it away from Martin, and next thing I know, all our
guys were celebrating. I didn't even know what happened.

"It was a lucky bounce, and I'm glad we got it."

Terry Frei is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. His book, Simon and Schuster's "Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming," is available nationwide.