NEW YORK (AP) — Peter DeBoer said giving goalie Martin Brodeur the starting nod in the New Jersey Devils' first outdoor game was simply the right thing to do.
Pulling the struggling future Hall of Famer after two periods might have been an even better decision by the coach. Brodeur was done in by multiple deflections and too many odd-man rushes Sunday against the New York Rangers outside in the cold and snow at Yankee Stadium. In all, he gave up six goals on 21 shots in 40 minutes of the Devils' 7-3 loss.
"The whole atmosphere of this event, the mixed fans in the building, the aura of playing at Yankee Stadium, the whole thing was unbelievable — besides the hockey game," the 41-year-old Brodeur said. DeBoer went with Brodeur, the face of the franchise, over Cory Schneider, who has been on a roll lately. DeBoer felt Brodeur earned the start at the iconic ballpark for all he has meant to the Devils organization over two decades.
Brodeur appreciated the sentiment, but he wanted to play based on what he is doing now and not as some kind of lifetime achievement award. It just didn't work out as anyone had planned. A delayed start to the game because of sun glare on the playing surface, choppy ice once the puck was dropped, and cold and snow all added up to a miserable afternoon for Brodeur and the Devils.
He gave up two goals in the first and four in the second. "There was no way we could've played," Brodeur said of the glare that pushed the starting time back nearly an hour. "The ice was the worst ice I've ever played on. You went from the shadows to the sun. It was almost a 10 degree difference. It was unbelievable.
"You rely a lot on instinct, and poise, and I couldn't close my glove, it was so cold." Schneider came in for the third period and gave up the last of New York's six straight goals — a penalty shot tally by Derek Stepan. Schneider faced only five shots.
"Some bad breaks. We didn't help him out much," DeBoer said of Brodeur. "At that point I had a conversation with him and we both agreed. It was actually his comment, that how about give Schneids the experience of a period in this environment.
"It wasn't working for him or our group the way it was. So I give him credit for that. It made sense, too." Rangers counterpart Henrik Lundqvist empathized with Brodeur. Lundqvist allowed three goals in the first period and trailed by one heading into the second.
Lundqvist had his own concerns as to whether he would be around at the end. "I'm not going to lie, when they scored the third one, I had a bad feeling about it," Lundqvist said. "My first thought was, 'Am I going to be able to finish this game? Then you kind of regroup and tell yourself, 'I need to stop the next shot. That's it. There is no other way to do this.'"
New York got within one before the first intermission and then swarmed Brodeur. Dominic Moore and Marc Staal had goals in the first for the Rangers, then Mats Zuccarello scored two straight to put New York ahead for the first time. Carl Hagelin and Rick Nash found the net, too, behind the beleaguered Brodeur, who angrily swatted the puck away after one of the tallies.
"Most of their goals went in off our players, or a stick or skate, and that happens. It was just one of those nights," Brodeur said. Nash, who scored for the fifth straight game, has seven goals in his streak and 18 this season.
A day after the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks played in 60-degree weather at Dodger Stadium, the NHL returned to conditions more fitting for hockey. "Within 16 hours, two of the most-revered venues in sports welcomed more than 100,000 fans to sit under the sky and enjoy two of the fiercest rivalries in the National Hockey League," Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "The games were spectacular, the images were unforgettable, and the sheer energy our sport creates was unmistakable."
Lundqvist settled down and made 19 saves. He hadn't allowed more than two goals in his previous seven outings. The Devils took care of that in the first. Patrik Elias scored twice, Travis Zajac once and Jaromir Jagr had two assists to excite the large number of New Jersey fans who made the trek to the Bronx for what was a Devils home game.
"They changed their game in the second period," Jagr said of the Rangers. "They were flying into our zone, and we didn't react to it." Jagr passed former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Mario Lemieux for 10th place on the NHL career assist list.
The teams played through the second period as the snow started and increased in intensity. The temperature was 24.9 degrees when the game started at 1:41 p.m. in front of a sellout crowd of 50,105. Jagr said he and his teammates took in the scene, but perhaps a bit too much.
"I think we all did that in the second period," Jagr said. Yankee Stadium's second hockey game will take place on Wednesday night when the Rangers will again be the road team in a matchup with the New York Islanders.
NOTES: Schneider is 5-1-2 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in his last eight starts, dating to Dec. 28. Brodeur had played in only two of New Jersey's previous eight games. ... New Jersey had won two straight. New York snapped a two-game losing streak. ... The seven goals matched the Rangers' season high.