Extra Time Is Not His Time

Times Staff Writer

Martin Brodeur made one of his most spectacular saves Monday night in overtime, sliding across the crease to kick away a point-blank shot by Samuel Pahlsson.

Unfortunately for the New Jersey Devil goaltender, the puck popped back out to the right faceoff circle, Steve Thomas of the Mighty Ducks rifled it into the net and the Devils lost, 1-0, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Overtime again had left Brodeur and the Devils overwrought.

Brodeur is an Olympic gold medalist, two-time Stanley Cup champion and probably the best goaltender in the NHL, but in overtime in the playoffs he has not fared well.

Though he was a 2-1 winner over the Dallas Stars in a Cup-clinching Game 6 victory in the 2000 finals, mostly he has struggled.

Monday night's loss was his 18th in 26 playoff overtime decisions.

It was his second in three nights, enabling the Ducks to square the best-of-seven championship series at two games each, and his fourth in a row, among them two of the Devils' three losses to the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference finals.

How to explain this puzzling trend?

"Some of us are really lucky in overtime and some of us are not as lucky," Brodeur said. "You can't really control your destiny too much; you just try to stop the puck. That's what I've been doing all my career, and it just doesn't happen."

Brodeur, however, could hardly be faulted on the winning goal.

The Devils seemed to be caught flat-footed as Duck defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh jumped into the play, taking advantage of a three-on-two rush to slide a pass across the ice to Pahlsson streaking down the right side.

Pahlsson tried to slap it into the net, but Brodeur denied him.

"He obviously made a huge save on the initial play," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "I let the pass get across and he came across to make a huge save. It's got to be our job at that point to take care of that puck for him."

They didn't.

And Thomas, the NHL's all-time leader with 13 regular-season overtime goals, ripped it past Brodeur 39 seconds into overtime.

"We kind of pressed a little bit," Brodeur said. "We threw the puck back into the middle and they came back on a three-on-two [rush]. Thomas made a great pass to I don't know who that was [Ozolinsh], and that guy made a great pass.

"But it hit a stick and gave me an opportunity to get to the puck and I was able to make the save. When I tried to recover, it was just kind of chaos in front of me and I didn't see the puck go through my defenseman, and it went in."

Brodeur skated off the ice, an unlucky loser in overtime again.

On the bright side, at least he was spared the embarrassment of giving up another quirky goal, as he did in Game 3. Early in the third period, a dump-in by Duck defenseman Ruslan Salei bounced wildly off the boards and bounded straight toward the net, where Brodeur tried to glove it.

He fumbled it toward the goal line, however, and had to bat it away with his stick before it crossed over for a goal.

It was the stop of the game, a potential game-winning save.

But then came overtime.

"It's just the way it happens," Brodeur said of the final play and his dismal overtime record. "You can't think about it too much; you just go out there and try to win. When it's one bounce away, it's one bounce away."

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