- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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These days, New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist is King of the hill, the No. 1 netminder in the NHL. Brodeur even admitted it heading into the Eastern Conference finals -- as much as it probably pained him to do so.
The two went on to engage in an epic six-game duel to determine which team was moving on and which team was going home. When it was over, Lundqvist won the shutout battle 2-0, but it was Brodeur who won the war, four games to two.
So the greatest goaltender of today will have to wait for his first chance at hoisting hockey's holy grail. Instead, he'll watch the most prolific goaltender of all time chase his fourth title.
"It's been great, regardless of beating Lundqvist," Brodeur said after the Devils advanced to the Stanley Cup finals with a 3-2 overtime victory in Game 6 on Friday night. "It's definitely nice to compete against the top goalies in the NHL, but again, I'm not playing against any of them, I'm playing for my team."
Eighteen years earlier to the day, on May 25, 1994, Brodeur's team lost a Game 6 to the Rangers, whose captain, Mark Messier, guaranteed a victory and delivered a hat trick.
In the next game, Brodeur -- then a 22-year-old rookie -- ended up on his back after Stephane Matteau scored the game-winning, double-overtime goal at Madison Square Garden.
On Friday, Brodeur -- who downplayed any similarities between the two series -- exorcised the demons on 1994. After Adam Henrique scored 63 seconds into overtime, the 40-year-old Brodeur flew down the ice and jumped on top of the celebration pile.
"This is to go to the big dance. When you're a kid, you dream of having the chance to win the Stanley Cup, and by winning we'll have the opportunity to compete for it," Brodeur said. "And along the way, we beat a big rival, especially for me [given what happened] 18 years ago, every body's been talking about. So now it's at least 1-1. I don't know if they're going to give us credit, but it's 1-1."
So now every one can forget about 1994, right?
"I don't know about that," Brodeur said. "We've won three Cups since.
"But I think winning against them on the big stage, not just for me, but I think for the fans of New Jersey, the people that are supporting us and always taking a second seat to these guys for whatever reason, now they're going to be pretty happy going to work and going to school and doing all their things that they do."
None of them are happier than the person who took Brodeur with the 20th pick in the 1991 NHL draft.
"There's only one guy that likes beating the Rangers more than Marty, and that's Lou Lamoriello," Devils coach Peter DeBoer joked about his general manager.
"Those guys have been through this rivalry for 20 years. I'm happy for both of them."
At this time last season, Brodeur was enjoying time with his family in Florida after having to endure the worst season of his 18-year, future Hall of Fame career.
Brodeur's 2011-12 campaign began with injury and mediocrity. But ever since the second half, the league's all-time winningest netminder has defied his age and turned back the clock. In the postseason, he's 12-5 with a 2.04 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout.
"There's a reason why he's the best goalie to play the game," Henrique said. "He gives us that extra confidence every night that he's going to go out there and give us a chance to win. If we're not playing our best, he seems to make those big saves night in and night out."
He did it again on Friday night.
The Devils dominated the first period en route to jumping out to a 2-0 lead. But the Rangers countered with two goals in the middle frame and controlled the action for much of the third.
Midway through the final period, it appeared that the Rangers were about to break the tie. Brad Richards ripped a point-blank shot, but Brodeur went down in his patented two-pad stack and made the save. It was the best of his 33 saves on the evening.
"The next goal was gonna win the game," Brodeur said. "In my head, the overtime started in the third period. And that's the way I approached the third period coming in."
"He was outstanding," DeBoer added. "When it was 2-2, they had a half-dozen opportunities with the game on the line, just like Game 7 in Florida in overtime, when they took it to us. He's a calming influence. He finds a way to make a save at the right time and give us a chance."
Henrique made the most of it. And so the legend of Martin Brodeur continues.
"I took about one step up. I took one step back," Brodeur said of Henrique's game winner. "I wasn't sure if it was in or not. When I saw everyone celebrating, it was just a big relief.
"We played really hard this playoff series, and this was an emotional series against the Rangers. And to pull it off in that fashion, it's even sweeter."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
12hDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com