UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Martin Brodeur returned to the New York metropolitan area for yet another triumph.
Not to New Jersey, but dressed in one.
The longtime Devils goalie is back in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues after spending more than two decades wearing New Jersey’s red and black.
He was scheduled for a day off Saturday, two days after making his first appearance with the Blues, but a rough first period for starting goalie Jake Allen forced the 42-year-old Brodeur into action after 20 minutes.
When it was over, Brodeur earned his first win with St. Louis — a come-from-behind, 6-4 victory over the New York Islanders.
“I didn’t come back not to win,” Brodeur said after stopping 14 of 15 shots. “That’s what I like to do. This is what I’ve driven my career about. It’s all about winning.”
Allen got the nod despite Brodeur already owning a career-best 51 wins against the then-rival Islanders while he was with the Devils, Brodeur watched the opening period of this matinee from the backup goalie’s seat in the tunnel.
Brodeur was his usual affable self. He held court in front of recognizable reporters who covered him during his years with the Devils.
“Familiar faces. I like it,” he said.
There were some mixed into the crowd, as well, as his wife and two children were in attendance. They will accompany him back to St. Louis.
His place with the Blues is somewhat tenuous. Although he signed a one-year deal this week, he knows he is there out of necessity following a knee injury to top goalie Brian Elliott in a game against Ottawa on Nov. 25.
Elliott skated this week, but coach Ken Hitchcock said he isn’t close to returning to action.
“I am coming here to help these guys, not to be the guy that is going to carry them,” Brodeur said. “Who knows what’s going to happen in the future?”
Brodeur was brought in by the Blues the day after Elliott’s injury on a practice agreement, and six days later he signed his first NHL contract that didn’t say New Jersey Devils on top.
“It’s definitely a change,” Brodeur said. “Not just playing hockey, but being part of a different organization. That’s what kind of makes you feel a little younger and kind of excited about everything.”
And now wearing the sweater with the familiar blue note on it?
“That was weird. I can’t hide it,” he said. “It’s something that for 20 years I did the same thing over and over. Now that was a change … but I got used to it now and I’m really excited to be here.”
Brodeur added his first new positive stat to his resume on Saturday. He came out of his first game with the Blues feeling OK, despite a 4-3 loss at the Nashville Predators in which he made 20 saves on Thursday.
“He looked more than adequate, to be honest with you,” Hitchcock said.
Brodeur is in good shape, feels good, and more importantly believes he has a lot left to offer this team, or another, both on and off the ice.
His time in New Jersey just ran out.
But before it did, Brodeur won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie four times — most recently in 2008 — and was a three-time Stanley Cup champion. Last season he was 19-14-6 with a 2.51 goals-against average, .901 save percentage and three shutouts in 39 games, but wasn’t re-signed.
He is the NHL leader in wins (689) and shutouts (124), and has even posted more victories than the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise.
“I’m OK. I was OK,” Brodeur said. “It’s just that somebody decided I was too old somewhere along the way. I didn’t feel like that. I am happy to be back and having another chance to play and play for a really good team.”
Brodeur has no hard feelings toward Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello or anyone else within the New Jersey organization. He talked to his longtime boss before his tryout with the Blues and before he inked his deal.
“He was really happy,” Brodeur said of Lamoriello, who could have a job for him once Brodeur’s playing days are finally over. “Our relationship is something that I care about, and his input is really important. He’s really excited about this opportunity for me and see where that is going to bring me.
“I heard from most of the players. Everybody knew that I still have something left and that I wanted to play, so they were all excited.”
While the Islanders are excelling and filling Nassau Coliseum on a regular basis in their final season at their longtime home before relocating to Brooklyn, the prospect of another visit from Brodeur helped them sell at least a few more tickets.
“He is going to go down as one of the greats, and he still looks pretty darn good in the net, as well,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said.
Devils jerseys and T-shirts with the name Brodeur on the back were scattered around the arena, and Brodeur noticed them during pregame warmups. He was quick to flash a smile and a greeting as he made his way around the ice.
“They made the trip here and wear my jersey, so they must still like me,” he said. “We have some Devils fans that are still on my side, I guess.”
Two of those came from New Jersey, and were heading back there to see their beloved Devils play at home Saturday night.
“I bought (tickets) right before he signed,” said Stacy Hagan, from Totowa. “I have been a Devils fan my whole life.
“We got to see him behind the goal one more time. We got a wave. There were a bunch of us down there, so it was kind of cool.”
While she sported a white Devils jersey, her friend Victor Tafro wore the red version. Both were glad they came, but were disappointed that Allen got the start over Brodeur.
“I hope he does well,” Tafro said. “I feel bad that we didn’t give him a chance on our team.”
But all was not lost for those who came out on a rainy Saturday for another glimpse at the future Hall of Famer. After Allen allowed three goals on 12 shots in the first period, Brodeur started the second down 3-0.
St. Louis tied it 3-3 in the second, but John Tavares pushed New York back in front heading into the third. That drew sing-song chants of “Mar-ty, Mar-ty” from the re-energized Islanders faithful.
A three-goal third period provided the Blues their winning margin.
“We have no opposition to using him at any time,” Hitchcock said before the game. “We think we can win with him. We think he helps us win. We’re in the winning business.”
After the Islanders took a 1-0 lead, many in the crowd began chanting “We Want Marty!” Shortly after the lead grew to three, they got their wish.
“They scored again, and I said ‘I guess they’re going to get me,'” Brodeur said.
Islanders coach Jack Capuano seemed content before the game to have Brodeur stay on the bench.
“We’ve seen enough of him over the years,” Capuano said. “It’s like having another defenseman back there.
“It’s a good hockey club over there. I am sure he will fit right in.”
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