Martin Brodeur's Veteran Leadership Enables Devils to Outlast Panthers

Mark BatorAnalyst IIApril 27, 2012

Martin Brodeur makes one of his 43 saves in Game 7.
Martin Brodeur makes one of his 43 saves in Game 7.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Dispelling the rumors that the sun has set on the career of the winningest goalie in the history of the NHL, Martin Brodeur made 43 saves on the way to his team's dramatic double-overtime Game 7 road victory over the Florida Panthers.

It was the first playoff series victory for the Devils since 2007 when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brodeur saw his team squander a two-goal lead in the third period when Marcel Goc scored on a power play at 16:32 to tie the game, 2-2, setting the stage for what looked like another early departure from the NHL playoffs for the Devils.

With time waning in the third period and momentum shifting to the home team, Brodeur shut the door on the Panthers, allowing the Devils time to collect themselves at the end of regulation.

Despite playing before a capacity crowd of 19,313 screaming hometown fans, the Panthers looked tired and flustered in the early going, especially after Adam Henrique scored just 1:29 into the game, giving the Devils an early lead.

Fortunate to only be trailing 1-0 at the first intermission, the Panthers finally settled down and play shifted in their favor, yet they found themselves behind by two goals as they entered the third period after Steven Gionta scored at 9:15 in the second period. 

But in the third, the Panthers tied the game on goals by Stephen Weiss and Goc, setting the stage for Brodeur to take control of what was to become the Devils' longest overtime game since 2003.

Neither team scored in the first overtime session, as Brodeur and veteran Florida netminder Jose Theodore scrapped and scrambled to keep their respective teams alive.

Finally, at 3:47 of the second overtime period, Adam Henrique collected a loose puck in the right circle and cut to the slot to fire the game-winner past Theodore and propel the visiting Devils to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Exhausting," admitted New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer after the game, calling it "a fitting end to the series."

But there will be no rest for the weary. Brodeur, who is just a few weeks shy of his 40th birthday, must next face a high-powered Philadelphia offense when the Devils open up against the Flyers in round two.

For Brodeur, it will be the fifth time in his Hall of Fame career he has faced the Flyers in a playoff series. The two teams split their six games during the regular season this year.