Martin Brodeur has had a remarkable career, winning more games than any National Hockey League goaltender ever and earning three Stanley Cup rings along the way, and on Friday he put another memorable notch on his belt.
The 40-year-old Brodeur won a measure of revenge against the New York Rangers after waiting 18 years when the Devils scored a 3-2 overtime victory to win the Eastern Conference finals in six games and reach the NHL championship series against the Los Angeles Kings.
Eighteen years ago to the day, the New York Rangers overcame a 3-2 series deficit to the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals by beating New Jersey and rookie goalie Brodeur on the road in Game Six with New York captain Mark Messier backing up a guarantee of victory by scoring a hat trick.
The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Finals with a Game Seven win at Madison Square Garden, and burned that triumph into the memories of area hockey fans by going on to beat Vancouver in seven games to win the Cup and end a 54-year NHL title drought.
"This is to go to the big dance," a beaming Brodeur told reporters. "When you're a kid you dream of a chance to win the Stanley Cup. This win gives us the opportunity to compete for it and along the way we beat a big rival.
"And especially for me. Eighteen years ago. Everybody has been talking about it. Now at least it's 1-1."
Brodeur said avenging that stinging defeat meant even more to fans of the Devils, who have had much more success on the ice than their cross-river rivals but garner far less attention due to the massive media machine on the Manhattan side of the Hudson.
"Since '94, we've won three Stanley Cups," said Brodeur, the last member of that Devils team still playing. "Winning against them in a big stage is not just for me, but for the fans in New Jersey, people who have been supporting us.
"We are always taking a second seat to these guys for whatever reason," he added. "They (the fans) must be pretty happy. We made a lot of people really happy by beating them."
Rookie center Adam Henrique scored the game-winner 63 seconds into sudden-death overtime, but Brodeur could not tell for several agonising seconds whether the puck had actually gone in past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
"When I saw everybody celebrating it was a big relief," said Brodeur, who stopped 33 of 35 shots in the tension-packed thriller. "This was an emotional series against the Rangers. To pull it off in that fashion was even sweeter."