MONTREAL -- Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur has been playing his best hockey of the season with a heavy heart.
Brodeur revealed after the Devils' 3-1 win in Montreal Sunday night that his father, Denis, underwent brain surgery Friday night.
Brodeur spent Saturday evening with Denis after the Devils flew to Montreal for Sunday's game.
"He was fine," Brodeur said. "He was walking around. He recognized me. So, that's good."
Brodeur said his father had been having some problems recently and was diagnosed Feb. 7. Brodeur went to see him on Feb. 8. He missed practice that day because of a minor right ankle injury and did not play the next night against St. Louis but was back in time for the morning skate that day.
Brodeur kept the news to himself until now out of respect for his father's privacy.
Like his son, Denis Brodeur, 81, was a goaltender and won the Olympic bronze medal with Canada in the 1956 Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo. He went on to become the long-time team photographer for the Canadiens and the Montreal Expos and often brought a young Martin with him on his assignments.
It was a sad coincidence that Denis Brodeur underwent surgery on the day after former Expos catcher Gary Carter died of brain cancer. Brodeur called Carter "a family friend."
The Canadiens honored Carter prior to Sunday's game with a video tribute and moment of silence. They also wore jerseys with No. 8 and Carter on the back during pregame warm-ups.
"I grew up watching him," Brodeur said. "I got to meet him a few times through my dad because he was the Expos' photographer and for us he was a part of our family with a lot of discussions that we had about him and he really was genuinely a nice guy. You saw on the video, you could just look at his face and the way he conducted himself he was a class act. So, it's definitely a sad day."
The news about Brodeur's father put a damper on another solid Devils' victory. They improved to 8-1-1 since the All-Star break and climbed one point ahead of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Devils had been concentrating mostly on solidifying their spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but now they're in position to have home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"You think about it, but it's not something we're talking about," said captain Zach Parise, who opened the scoring by deflecting in an Ilya Kovalchuk shot with 1:57 left in the first period. "But, I think it's something now that's definitely a possibility for us. If we keep playing the same way, I don't see why that's something we can't do."
The Devils got a gutsy effort from an injury-depleted defense corps that was missing Kurtis Foster (stiff back), Henrik Tallinder (blood clot in left leg) and Adam Larsson (bruised lower back). They had to play final 25 minutes with only five defensemen because Bryce Salvador was unable to continue playing through a stomach bug.
They were fortunate that defenseman Anton Volchenkov was able to return after missing the final 6:48 of the first period after he was struck in the mouth with a Tomas Plekanec slap shot. Volchenkov was back for the start of the second period, though, after receiving three stitches to close a cut on his upper lip.
"He's good," Kovalchuk said. "He's just a little crazy. He wants to block every puck."
David Clarkson scored on deflection with 17.4 seconds left in the second period to make it 2-0. After Max Pacioretty scored on a power-play rebound 1:46 into the third to break up Brodeur's shutout bid, defenseman Matt Taormina's right point shot went through Steve Bernier's screen in front to make it 3-1 at 8:27.
That was plenty for Brodeur, who made 21 saves to improve to 9-3-1 in his past 13 starts with a 1.75 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
"He's on top of his game right now and he gives the whole team confidence," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said.