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, last night on their home ice.
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 2 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, 5 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 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.
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, which will be shut down after this season.
"It's great that we got it the way we did, in maybe our last game here," said Brodeur, who is 16-4 at the 48-year-old facility. "It was a big game for us, so to get the shutout on top of it is great."
In other games:
* At Edmonton, Andy McDonald scored twice and Alexander Steen had a goal and three assists in St. Louis' 7-2 domination of the Oilers.
* At Glendale, Ariz., Scottie Upshall scored two goals and added two assists to lead the Phoenix Coyotes over Columbus, 5-2.
* At Dallas, Patrick Marleau scored two goals and Joe Pavelski added another to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Stars, 4-2.
* At St. Paul, Minn., Matt Hendricks scored shorthanded to cap a three-goal second period for Colorado, and the Avalanche hung on to beat the Wild, 4-3, for the first time in five tries this season.
* At Toronto, Derek Roy scored 3:35 into overtime and Ryan Miller made 34 saves to lead the Buffalo Sabres to a 3-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
* At Atlanta, Marc-Andre Bergeron scored late in the third period to tie it, then again in overtime to give Montreal a 4-3 win over the Thrashers.
* At Ottawa, Tim Thomas stopped 29 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm scored in the third period, sending the Boston Bruins to a 2-0 win over the Senators.
* At Uniondale, N.Y., Ryan Malone scored two power-play goals in the third period, and Tampa Bay shook off a pair of one-goal deficits to beat the Islanders, 4-2.
* At Raleigh, N.C., Marian Gaborik scored his NHL-leading 25th goal and added an assist, increasing his point total to 47, and the New York Rangers beat the Hurricanes, 3-1.