NEWARK, N.J. — Sitting on the bench in the second period after his shortest stint ever in a playoff game, New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur never worried whether coach Pete DeBoer would turn to him again in Game 4 against the Florida Panthers.
Call it confidence.
Call it whatever.
The three-time Stanley Cup winner knows what he brings to the Devils. He is the rock at the end of the ice. He is the guy who the team can count upon when things go wrong.
Brodeur also is the player that the Devils know will bounce back after a disappointing performance in Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss that gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.
Game 4 is Thursday.
“I expect to play every game all the time, especially in the playoffs,” Brodeur said Wednesday after the Devils held an energetic one-hour workout. “It might not happen the rest of my career. But right now, until I don’t play, I expect every day I will play.
“I know what I can do and what I can bring and I will try my hardest all the time.”
He should. After all, the 39-year-old who has played in 184 career postseason games, has won 100 of them.
Brodeur had a rare off night in Game 3. The Devils staked him a 3-0 lead in the opening 6:16, and he could not hold it. The Panthers tied the game at 2:18 of the second period and DeBoer switched goaltenders, inserting Johan Hedberg.
While a little miffed afterward for being pulled from a tie contest, Brodeur said Wednesday that he knew DeBoer was trying to pick up his team after blowing a three-goal lead. It was only the sixth time that he had been lifted from a playoff start.
Panthers coach Kevin Dineen had lifted Jose Theodore after the Devils’ early onslaught and backup Scott Clemmensen stopped all 19 New Jersey shots the rest of the game.
Hedberg only gave up one goal, but Brian Campbell’s power-play tally was the winner.
Brodeur took everything in stride Wednesday.
“Being a goalie, it’s a mental game more than any other position,” Brodeur said, adding that goaltenders are put under the microscope when they are pulled. The average player who has a bad game, rarely gets benched for the rest of the night.
“That’s part of being who I am or what a goaltender has to go through over and over,” Brodeur said. “When you go back in there, it’s in your head. You just have to get your feet wet again and go at it. It’s a game. I know how to play it. There are days I play well. I try every day. I try as hard as I can every day, but there are days it just doesn’t work.
“I would love to be a guarantee. I don’t think there is a goalie who can tell you they know exactly how they are going to play when they get in.”
Looking back on his performance in Game 3, Brodeur was satisfied. Sean Bergenheim beat him with a great shot for the first goal and the next two found their way through bodies into the net.
“It’s not the fact of how I played, it’s the fact the puck didn’t hit me,” Brodeur said. “That kind of told Pete: ‘Let’s make a little change.’ It’s a coaching game also and I respect what they do.”
While DeBoer said after the game the Brodeur would start Thursday, Dineen would not say whether Clemmensen or Theodore would get the call.
“For two months, Clem has been an excellent goaltender and one of the best of the league,” Dineen said. “He’s a hard guy to dislike. He has tremendous respect from our players and coaching staff. It’s certainly a tough decision to make, whichever way I choose. Theo wasn’t able to stop them early, but it all doesn’t fall on Theo. He’s been terrific all season.”
Dineen is more concerned with the Panthers’ starts. In two of three games, they have fallen behind 3-0. The power play has been their salvation, converting on 6 of 10 chances against the NHL’s best penalty kill.
“We need to come out with more desperation and compete better from the start,” Campbell said at a Panthers’ availability at their hotel in Jersey City. “We have tried to work our way through some games and you can’t do that in the playoffs.
“We need to correct our slow starts.”
The Devils need to stay out of the penalty box. Three of Florida’s four goals in Game 3 were on the power play.
“We’re a good team,” Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. “We have to find a way to bounce back. One game is not going to kill our confidence.”