Few players get the chance to carve their name into NHL history books. Even fewer fans are around to witness the history in the making. But for Brian Boucher, the Phoenix Coyotes and their fans, that all changed on December 31, 2003.
After spending six seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and their AHL affiliate, Philadelphia Phantoms (now Adirondack Phantoms), Brian Boucher was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes in trade for Robert Esche and Michal Handzus the summer in 2002. Posting a .894 save percentage in his first season in the Valley, the netminder's best years seemed to have all but passed by the time he arrived in the desert.
Sitting second to starting goaltender Sean Burke, Boucher took the ice only eight time sin the 2003-04 season prior to New Year's Eve, and one of those appearances had been in relief. But the Coyotes, desperate get back on track after a December record of (up to that point) 4-4-5, rested starter Sean Burke and placed the Woonsocket native netminder between the pipes against division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. That night Boucher would save all 21 shots faced, while the rest of the team netted four goals to shutout the Kings. Choosing to go with what had worked the previous game, Coach Bobby Francis would call Boucher's number again in the team's next game against the Dallas Stars. And again the backup goalie would save all shots faced for his second consecutive shutout. The hot goaltender would get the nod for the next five games.
With Boucher on the verge of breaking the most consecutive shutouts record, a record that stood untouched since 1949 when Montreal Canadiens' goalie Bill Durnan posted four straight shutouts, tensions were high as the Coyotes rolled into Minnesota to face the Wild. Again shutting the doors, the Phoenix netminder established his name in the NHL record books in a 2-0 win against the Wild.
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Now looking to extend the record, Boosh started the game against the Atlanta Thrashers but an extremely unlucky bounce would sever Brian Boucher's streak of not giving up a goal at 332:01 (the scoreless streak began in Boucher's last start prior to the Kings game against Nashville). The ending came on a fluky goal by Randy Robitaille at 6:16 in the first period. The puck hit Phoenix's David Tanabe in the chest, then deflected in, leaving Boucher no chance of stopping it. The Robitalle tally was the only 1 of the 21 shots Boucher faced he didn't save in the game which ended in a 1-1 tie.
Recap of the shutout streak:
12/31/03 - Los Angeles Kings - 4-0
01/02/04 - Dallas Stars - 6-0
01/04/04 - Carolina Hurricanes - 3-0
01/07/04 - Washington Capitals - 3-0
01/09/04 - Minnesota Wild - 2-0