On June 26th, 1993, at the Colisee de Quebec in Quebec City, Canada, Jamie Langenbrunner heard his named called as the 35th overall pick in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft. The Cloquet, Minnesota native would not be a Minnesota North Star but would be joining the relocated Dallas Stars. He would make his NHL debut during the 1994-95 season and on June 19th, 1999 he won his first Stanley Cup. The following season he reached the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season but his Dallas Stars would fall to the New Jersey Devils in six games after Jason Arnott netted the double-overtime game-winning goal. Their paths would soon cross again.
1: March 19th, 2002: The Trade
The Devils went one step further than the Stars after winning their Cup but not far enough. The Devils lost the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals in seven games to the Colorado Avalanche and fell just one game short of defending their own title. The following season was a struggle for both the Stars and the Devils and a shakeup was in order. On March 19th, 2002, Arnott, Randy McKay, and a first round draft pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft were sent to Dallas in exchange for Stars forward Joe Nieuwendyk and his line mate, Langenbrunner. After scoring 52 points during the 1997-98 season, Langenbrunner’s point totals dropped in each of the next three seasons and he only scored 30 points in 2000-01. The resurrection of his career was in order and it started early. On a line with Nieuwendyk and Stephane Richer, he scored a goal and an assist in just his second game with the Devils as New Jersey defeated the Predators 4-3 on the road on March 21st. Nieuwendyk also had a goal and an assist in the game. In 14 games with the Devils to close out the season, Langenbrunner potted three goals (two of them game-winners) and six points in total.
2: December 21st, 2002: First Game against the Stars
A sleepless night and pre-game nerves would not deter Langenbrunner from having a party against his only prior NHL team. On a Saturday afternoon at the Continental Airlines Arena, Langenbrunner scored the opening goal of the game and assisted on Oleg Tverdovsky’s goal later in the first period. With the Devils up by a goal with less than two minutes to play, Langenbrunner picked up another assist when John Madden scored on a rush from the right circle to give New Jersey a 5-3 lead. The Devils would win by the same score and Langenbrunner was named the game’s First Star.
3: 2003 Stanley Cup Championship Run
After a career-high 55 points during the 2002-03 season, Langenbrunner was red-hot during the postseason. In 24 games, he scored 11 goals (four game-winners), 7 assists, and 18 points. A Conn Smythe Trophy finalist, he led the NHL in postseason goals during the run and he was tied with the league lead in points with teammate Scott Niedermayer.
Ken Daneyko, a teammate of Jamie Langenbrunner on the 2003 championship team, spoke highly of him, “Great teammate and bigger the game he stepped up, clutch!”
Langenbrunner scored five goals in the opening series against the Boston Bruins but his best was yet to come. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 2 after burying his own rebound against the Tampa Bay Lightning to give the Devils their fifth straight playoff win on home ice. During the Eastern Conference Finals, the Devils took a commanding three games to one lead over the Presidents’ Trophy winning Ottawa Senators. However, the Senators would not bow down quietly and forced a crucial Game 7 back in Ottawa. Jeff Friesen scored the game-winning goal for the Devils late in the third after receiving a perfect pass from Grant Marshall. The Devils won 3-2 and advanced to the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals but forgotten behind Friesen’s emotional goal was that Langenbrunner was the catalyst for the Devils on this night. He scored the Devils first two goals of the game and was second in time ice time, behind Madden, amongst New Jersey forwards.
Less than two minutes after tying Game 7 against Ottawa, Jamie Langenbrunner scores his second of the night:
Langenbrunner would add to his goal total in the Finals. With the series tied at two, Langenbrunner sealed a 6-3 New Jersey victory in Game 5 with a pair of goals. Two games later, Langenbrunner would lift the Cup above his head for the second, and final, time in his career.
4: 2005-06 Season Finale at Montreal; 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals vs. New York Rangers
In the 2005-06 season finale at the Montreal Canadiens, the Devils fell behind 3-0. After the Devils tied the game, Langenbrunner picked up the game-winning goal and in stunning fashion the Devils were the Atlantic Division Champions. This was their 11th consecutive victory but Langenbrunner and the Devils were not finished creating a memorable moment for the franchise.
Jamie Langenbrunner scores to give the Devils a 4-3 lead and their sixth Atlantic Division title:
The New York Rangers, their hated and bitter rival, defeated the Devils in their three prior Stanley Cup Playoff battles in 1992, 1994, and 1997. This was about to change and Langenbrunner played a leading role. Patrik Elias notched six points as the Devils won the series opener 6-1 but Langenbrunner was right on his tail. He picked up three assists and scored a goal at the doorstep of the crease against rookie goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
After winning Game 2, the Devils traveled across the Hudson looking to put the Rangers on the brink of elimination. It didn’t take long for Langenbrunner to have an impact. Just over a minute into the game, Elias fed Langenbrunner a back-handed pass on a two-on-one rush that Langenbrunner buried beyond the reach of Lundqvist. He also added an assist in the game when Elias put home a rebound for the Devils second goal. Langenbrunner’s goal, however, would turn out to be the game-winning goal as the Devils went on to defeat the Rangers 3-0.
With a 4-2 victory and another assist by Langenbrunner in the series finale the Devils swept their archenemy to advance to the second round. Langenbrunner had a strong showing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a goal and four assists but the Devils 15-game winning streak and their hopes of a fourth title evaporated as they fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in five games.
5: April 28th, 2007: The Last New Jersey Devils Win at the Continental Airlines Arena
In their 25th season in New Jersey, all played in East Rutherford, and the swan song season at the Continental Airlines Arena the Devils won their seventh Atlantic Division title and advanced to the Semifinals for the second season in a row. After their rally fell short in a 4-3 series-opening loss, the Devils were less than thirty seconds away from tying the series with a 2-1 lead in Game 2. The Ottawa Senators top line temporarily delayed those hopes with a game-tying goal by Dany Heatley. This set the stage for the final celebration at the Devils old barn.
After a scoreless first overtime, Langenbrunner and the Devils put home the final Devils game-winning goal in the arena at 1:55 of the second OT. Receiving a quick pass from Travis Zajac, Langenbrunner raced towards the Senators zone on a breakaway and with a fore-hander slid the puck just beyond the reach of goaltender Ray Emery’s left pad to tie the series. The Devils would fall in five games to the Senators before moving to Newark to play at the sparking Prudential Center for the 2007-08 season.
Jamie Langenbrunner scores the final GWG for the Devils at the Continental Airlines Arena:
6: December 5th, 2007: Jamie Langenbrunner wears the “C”
The Devils opened the 2007-08 season without a captain for the first time since 2006. However, Brent Sutter, the newly hired coach of the Devils, already had a captain in mind. The only issue was that his captain was sidelined with a groin injury for the first two months of the season. Then prior to game #26, the news became official; Jamie Langenbrunner was named the eighth captain in the history of the New Jersey Devils. Even better for Langenbrunner and the Devils, New Jersey rallied from a 3-0 deficit in his first game wearing the “C” and defeated the Bruins in overtime 4-3 courtesy of the Devils previous captain, Patrik Elias.
7: Back to Back to Back Two-Goal Games…Back to Back to Back Game-Winning Goals
The Devils played three games in four days from January 27th through January 30th, 2009. The Devils defeated the Senators in Ottawa in the first game 4-1. During the contest, Langenbrunner scored two goals including the game-winner. Two nights later the Devils traveled to Boston and rallied from a one-goal deficit late when Elias tied the game with less than two minutes remaining in regulation. In overtime, Langenbrunner picked up his second straight game-winning goal from the foot of the crease as he buried the rebound of a Colin White shot.
The Devils returned to the Prudential Center the following evening and were trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 with just thirty seconds remaining on the clock. Langenbrunner knotted the contest at three in dramatic fashion when he backhanded the puck past Penguins’ net minder Marc-Andre Fleury. He didn’t end there. He scored the game-winning goal for the Devils for the third consecutive game when he one-timed a pass from Zajac in the slot with just over a minute remaining in overtime. Three games. Three two-goal games. Three game-winning goals.
8: The Captain Helps the Legend Break a Record
Martin Brodeur missed the majority of the 2008-09 campaign after undergoing surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left arm. When he returned to game action on February 26th, 2009, Brodeur needed just seven wins to tie the record for most wins in the NHL by a goaltender, 551 wins set by Patrick Roy. He got that chance on March 14th when he played in his home city, Montreal. Langenbrunner did his part with a third period goal right in front of the crease to give the Devils their second two-goal lead of the evening. The Devils held on for a 3-1 victory and Brodeur was now one win away from setting the record.
Three nights later on St. Patrick’s Day, the cameras were flashing all throughout the Prudential Center from the warm-up until well after the final horn. Many fans were able to snap pictures of the “ZZPops line” (Zach Parise, Zajac, Langenbrunner) contributing to the win when Parise, from behind the goal line, fed the Devils captain in the slot. From there, Langenbrunner slapped the puck right past Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to give the Devils an early 1-0 lead just 38 seconds into the game. The early goal set the tone of the contest as the Devils played one of their best games of the season to down the Blackhawks 3-2. As the final horn blared throughout the young arena, Langenbrunner, a key contributor to many of Brodeur’s victories, and the Devils surrounded the “winningest goaltender in the NHL.”
9: January 2nd, 2010: Langenbrunner’s First Career Hat Trick
The Devils opened the calendar year of 2010 in Minnesota with a match-up against the Wild. Back in his home state, Langenbrunner put on a show in front of family and friends. He scored a pair of power-play goals in the second period and was looking to finally complete his first career hat trick. After intercepting a Wild pass in the neutral zone late in the third period, he skated in alone towards the vacated net and scored an empty-net goal to seal a Devils 5-3 win in one of the most memorable nights of his hockey career.
Jamie Langenbrunner picks up his first career NHL hat trick in his home state of Minnesota:
10: Captain America
In his final full season with the Devils and slightly over a month after his first career three-goal game, Langenbrunner took to the ice in Vancouver as the captain of the 2010 United States ice-hockey team. Alongside Devils teammate Parise he led the United States into the gold-medal game against Team Canada but fell short of his ultimate goal when Sidney Crosby netted the overtime winner for Canada. As a member of the silver-medal winning squad, Langenbrunner picked up a goal and three assists in six games including an assist on Parise’s game-tying goal in the final moments of regulation in the gold-medal game.
Jamie Langenbrunner was the consummate professional. A leader on and off the ice, Langenbrunner was one of the most clutch players to ever suit up in the entire NHL. In 146 career playoff games, he totaled 87 points including a dozen game-winning goals. He battled through injuries such as a torn meniscus in his knee in April 2009 to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of the most emotional players to ever lace up a pair of skates, Langenbrunner will surely be missed on the ice and one day, hopefully, will return to the game in another role.