Brodeur's 104th shutout tops Sawchuk's mark as Devils handle Pens

PITTSBURGH -- This was more than a regular-season game for Martin Brodeur, more than another night at the rink, and his Devils teammates knew it. They threw themselves at every Penguins shot and played as if the Stanley Cup was being decided, all to make sure Brodeur reached the NHL record book again.

Brodeur broke Terry Sawchuk's 40-year-old record with his 104th career shutout, further strengthening his case to be considered the best goaltender to play the game, and the streaking New Jersey Devils had little trouble beating Pittsburgh 4-0 on Monday night.

Brodeur made 35 stops to surpass the coveted shutout record only two games after setting the NHL mark for regular-season appearances by a goaltender. The shutout record came in his 1,032nd game over 16 seasons, all with the Devils.

Now the question is how long Brodeur will own his latest and hardest-to-surpass record. Twenty-five years? Fifty? Forever? Until Brodeur came along, no other goalie was within 10 shutouts of Sawchuk, who last played in 1969-70.

"This record was held for so long, when you do break records and see how long they lasted, it's cool," Brodeur said. "Tying it was amazing and surpassing him, was a great honor for me to be in that position."

Brodeur has long been compared to the game's greats, and for obvious reasons -- no other current-day goalie can begin to compare to the 37-year-old, the only active player among the top 22 on the career shutouts list. He has three shutouts this season and six in his career against Pittsburgh. He broke the record two weeks after beating Buffalo 3-0 on Dec. 7 to tie it.

As the game ended, his teammates swarmed to congratulate him, and the remaining fans from the standing-room crowd of 17,132 applauded as a congratulatory message from Penguins owner Mario Lemieux was read on the public address system.

"It's great, but I wasn't focusing on it," Brodeur said. "I'm definitely happy it's passed and we can just go play, and I don't have to answer the questions about it."

Brodeur, the NHL's winningest goalie with 580 wins, is 23-8-1 this season.

"When it got down to 10 minutes, five minutes, everybody's thinking about it [the record]," teammate Zach Parise said. "We're on the ice when a lot of these records are happening and it's fun. ... I don't think much needs to be said. It's all self-explanatory, all the winning he's done, the shutouts, the [three Stanley] Cups. It's unbelievable."

Brodeur's latest shutout came only two days after he was pulled during a rare off night in New Jersey's 5-4 victory over Atlanta on Saturday. He left after allowing three goals in the first.

"Surpassing a record definitely becomes a little nerve-racking," Brodeur said. "I don't get nervous, but today I was a little nervous. It was a like a good playoff game, everybody was trying to get the puck out and blocking shots and definitely it was a great effort by my teammates for me to break it."

Brodeur made nearly every save look easy as the Devils -- owners of the NHL's best record -- gave him plenty of support by taking a 1-0 lead in the first, then scoring three times in the second to chase Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury has been playing as well as any NHL goalie other than Brodeur with a 10-1-1 record and 1.80 goals-against average in 12 games, only to be yanked after allowing four goals on 16 goals.

Pittsburgh came into matchup between the NHL's two best-record teams with a five-game winning streak and a 13-2-1 record in the last 16 games, but were dominated at home by New Jersey for the third time this season. The Devils outscored the Penguins 12-2 in winning all three games at Mellon Arena, where they won't play again unless the teams meet in the playoffs.

Brodeur might be one of the few visiting players unhappy to see the cramped, 48-year-old arena shut down after this season, given his 16-4 record there in his last 20 games.

"It's great that we got it the way we did, in maybe our last game here," Brodeur said. "It was a big game for us, so to get the shutout on top of it is great."

Patrik Elias scored his fourth goal in five games and Dean McAmmond and Zach Parise had three assists each as the Devils won their fourth in a row to improve to an NHL-best 26-8-1. They won their fifth in a row, ninth in 10 games and 12th in 14, and are 27-9-1 in Pittsburgh since March 4, 1997.

Brodeur's toughest save probably came with the teams skating 4 on 4 and the Devils up 2-0 early in the second. Evgeni Malkin got loose on a short breakaway, but Brodeur easily turned aside his shot.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had a good chance to end the shutout with about 90 seconds remaining, but his shot struck the right post. Brodeur made a glove-hand save on Jordan Staal's in-close shot with 42 seconds remaining.

"It's pretty incredible. The records are piling up," Crosby said of Brodeur. "He's a legendary goalie and he proves it every year."

New Jersey, a league-best 13-2-1 on the road this season, took its 1-0 lead on an unlikely goal by Bryce Salvador, whose wrist shot from the left point eluded Fleury 4:39 into the game. The Devils made it 2-0 with a similar goal by Niclas Bergfors on a power play 23 seconds into the second.

Game notes
Staal left a pool of blood on the ice after being struck in the face by a puck about seven minutes into the second period, but returned early in the third wearing a full face shield. ... Elias has four goals in five games. ... New Jersey won its earlier two games in Pittsburgh by 4-1 scores. ... Parise has two goals and five assists in three games against Pittsburgh. ... New Jersey took the Atlantic Division lead with 53 points to Pittsburgh's 51.