There's been no Garden party for Brodeur
Arthur StapleArthur Staple
Staple, with Newsday since 1997, has covered high school
Marty Brodeur has won everything, everywhere, it seems. He is the winningest goaltender in the history of the game, regular season and postseason. There is nothing the 40-year-old hasn't done inside a blue crease.
Except win a big series in Madison Square Garden, of course.
The Garden loves to hate no one the way they hate Brodeur, and the serenades of "Marrrrrr-ty!" began well before the opening faceoff.
The chants only grew louder after Dan Girardi's goal 53 seconds into the third period, a shot that caught Brodeur's Devils teammates out of place and beat Brodeur with a double-Ranger screen in front.
Louder still when Chris Kreider iced the game with a great shot off the rush, another shot that would have beaten most goaltenders.
No matter. The fans gave it to Brodeur but good, and the greatest goaltender who ever lived had to take it, as he has had to take not winning much of anything against the Rangers in his illustrious career.
"I'm used to it. It's a great atmosphere," Brodeur said of the chants. He was his usual easygoing self, but this place may be haunting him.
Monday night was another postseason loss at the Garden for Brodeur, a 3-0 Game 1 defeat that dropped his lifetime postseason record in this building to 5-7. He has never gotten the better of the Rangers, nor Henrik Lundqvist, who was named the No. 1 star in a 21-save shutout, yet another good game for the best goaltender in the area.
And that may be the toughest thing for Brodeur to take. At 40, he's not what he was a decade ago, when he was on the verge of winning a third Stanley Cup in nine seasons and cementing himself as one of the best goaltenders of all time. Now he's not even the best goaltender in the series.
Brodeur had to grudgingly admit that before the series began. "He's kind of the top goalie in the NHL right now," he said of Lundqvist. "And I think I was in that position once."
Brodeur still has plenty left in the tank -- his aggressive save on Michael Del Zotto in the second showed that, as did his diving, flailing stop of Marc Staal's shot in the third when it still was 1-0. Staal still couldn't figure out after the game how Brodeur snared that one.
But the difference-maker was Lundqvist, who shut the door in the second period when the Devils tilted the ice and pressed the Rangers into mistake after mistake. His three rapid-fire saves on Zach Parise during a Rangers power play showed just how sharp Lundqvist was, just why he's the reason the Rangers are in the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 15 seasons.
"He gave us a chance there in the second," John Tortorella said.
And Brodeur had another Garden playoff game to stick in his craw.
There was Sean Avery four years ago, waving his stick and running his mouth as the Rangers took Brodeur and the Devils out in five games.
Another five-game exit in 1997. And "Matteau, Matteau" to finish off 1994, whose echoes were stirred from the moment Lundqvist and the Rangers got past the Caps on Saturday.
That conference finals loss 18 years ago still is in Brodeur's mind, too, but not in a negative way.
"If I didn't have that loss, maybe I wouldn't have become who I became or even our organization," he said.
Brodeur has done nothing but win for 20 seasons -- 656 in the regular season, 107 in the postseason and three Stanley Cups.
Just not here.
And, again, not Monday night.