Martin Brodeur posted his 14th shutout in 70 career playoff wins yesterday in Boston when the New Jersey Devils beat the Bruins, 3-0, for a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven, first-round series.
"They have, basically, an unbelievable wall back there and that weighs on you," Boston's Mike Knuble said of Brodeur.
It should bother New Jersey's potential playoff opponents, especially with the confidence and sense of near-invincibility that Brodeur brings to the playoffs.
"I still have a long way to go and many more shutouts to get," he said.
New Jersey can sweep the series Tuesday night in Boston and send the Bruins to another first-round exit. Seeded first in the Eastern Conference last year, they lost in six games to Montreal.
Now they face a daunting task. In the 13 series in which they trailed 3-0, the Bruins never made it to a sixth game. They lost seven of those series 4-0 and six 4-1.
"Anything's doable," said Boston's Brian Rolston, who managed just one shot yesterday and has no points in the series.
The Devils got goals from Scott Stevens in the second period, Jay Pandolfo in the third and John Madden into an empty net with 1 minute 6 seconds left.
The Bruins got none of their 29 shots past Brodeur, who led the league with 41 wins and nine shutouts and was fourth with a 2.02 goals against average.
"He's a big-time goalie and thrives on games like this," Madden said. "He plays just well enough to be better than everybody, but when big games come he takes it to another level."
Last season, the Devils lost in the first round in six games to Carolina, which reached the Stanley Cup finals. It was a big disappointment to a team that won the championship in 2000 and lost in the finals in 2001.
"Last year, we weren't 100 percent [healthy] going in," Stevens said. "We just look at this as another year."
This season, New Jersey tied Philadelphia for the fewest goals allowed. And the Devils don't rely on a single line as much as the Bruins do.
"Every time we get in their end it seems like they dump it out and we have to come back, regroup and then get back in," said Joe Thornton, Boston's first-line center. "They're a patient team."
Boston goalie Jeff Hackett, who missed 12 games since breaking his right index finger March 15, played well and saved 19 of 21 shots. He started in place of Steve Shields, who played in the 2-1 and 4-2 losses in the first two games.
"I felt good," Hackett said, but "sometimes one goal is too much against New Jersey."
* OILERS 3, STARS 2: In Edmonton, Radek Dvorak's goal at 5:38 of the third period was the game-winner as the Oilers took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.
Dallas carried a 1-0 lead into the third period but the Oilers scored three goals in 3:05 early in the session to take the advantage.
Jason Arnott put Dallas ahead with a first-period goal and that held up until Georges Laraque tied the game with his first goal of the postseason at 2:33 of the third.
That started the onslaught as Jere Lehtinen put Dallas ahead again 50 seconds later. But a goal by Fernando Pisani at 4:40 lifted the Oilers into a tie again, setting the stage for Dvorak's heroics.