UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Among many platitudes, Martin Brodeur is often lauded for his calm demeanor. But even a veteran of 21 seasons and a three-time winner of the Stanley Cup, four-time winner of the Vezina Trophy and owner of NHL records in games played, minutes played and shutouts still gets nervous before every game.
Once he was tapped on the shoulder by St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, his team trailing by three goals to the New York Islanders after one period of play at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, there were no nerves, only the mission of keeping his team in the game and hoping to provide a spark.
"It seems that when you're preparing yourself you're nervousness comes from what if, what if. … When you get into the momentum of a game, I think that's what probably what players saw in me in New Jersey through the years, how composed I am when I play the game," Brodeur said. "It doesn't mean I'm not excited or nervous in between periods or before games."
Once Brodeur was settled in relief of an ineffective Jake Allen he went to work. The owner of 688 career victories with the New Jersey Devils earned win No. 1 with the Blues, making 14 saves to help St. Louis rally for a 6-4 win. The victory was Brodeur's 52nd against the Islanders, his most against any NHL team.
"He just said 'Marty, let’s go.' That's it," Brodeur said of Hitchcock. "Jake battled hard, made some great saves, but it was just [to try to] change the momentum to put me in there. And it worked out well."
In the process, Brodeur was reminded why he continues to play the game.
"When we [tied it] up 3-3 I'm like, 'That's my game now,'" Brodeur said. "There's no escaping that. That's why I play. These atmospheres, the feeling that I'm feeling in there, it's what I'm looking for. And that’s why I was not ready to let go of the game. Definitely a good feeling."
What was a 3-0 hole turned into a good feeling for the Blues, who tied the game with three goals in 12:34 of the second and put the game away in the third to erase another deficit after Brodeur allowed a John Tavares goal with 54 seconds left in the period to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead.
"He gave us a huge lift," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Jake doesn't get taken out there because of his play. That falls on our shoulders and something we take responsibility for. We had a fresh goalie in there, fresh mindset going into the second period.
"He's a steady goalie. He's a calming presence back there and someone who in the locker room is getting us ready to go and ready to fight the battle."
In need of goaltending help with Brian Elliott sidelined because of a knee injury, the Blues signed Brodeur, 42, to a one-year contract Tuesday after he spent days working out with them. Brodeur debuted with the Blues on Thursday when he made 23 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Nashville Predators but showed little signs of rust. On Saturday he made seven of his 14 saves in the third, including key saves on Anders Lee and Casey Cizikas midway through the period, and one late on Cal Clutterbuck to preserve the Blues' two-goal lead.
"He's had a long rest," Hitchcock said. "Time to play. People are worried he's 42 years old. I don't look at it that way. He looks the same to me. What he did in the third period is he made three big saves. When it was 5-4 he made two big saves and even at 6-4 he makes a great save so they don't get a crack at us with an empty net, which is a good sign."
It was also a good sign for the Blues considering Allen's struggles and Elliott not close to returning from injury. The win put St. Louis in a first-place tie with the Predators in the Central Division with 36 points, one ahead of the third place Chicago Blackhawks.
"I felt excited," Brodeur said. "These are great moments in people's careers. You get to play in the NHL again and have your first win under your belt. It felt good. I'm pretty excited.
"I didn't come back not to win. That's what I like to do. It's all about winning. But getting the first one is unexpected. It's not like it's a start or anything. But I'll take it."