Scott Stevens, wearing rimless glasses and his familiar No. 4 Devils jersey, leaned toward the microphone atop the lectern that had been set up at the red line on Friday night. Two teams and a capacity crowd hushed and listened.
"I think this is the first time I've ever felt intimidated on this ice surface," Stevens said, and everyone roared.
Stevens, a stoic captain and punishing defenseman who helped the Devils win three Stanley Cups, became the first player in franchise history to have his number retired. Then, fittingly, the Devils beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 at Continental Arena.
"I don't think the night could have gone any better from the beginning to the end," said Lou Lamoriello, the Devils' general manager and coach.
In a tough, crisp game -- the kind Stevens probably would have loved to have played -- the Devils (28-20-6) smothered the Hurricanes (37-12-4), who have the NHL's best record and had won 14 of their previous 15 games.
"It was a typical Scott Stevens win, I guess," Devils center Scott Gomez said.
Martin Brodeur, Stevens' teammate on each of the Devils' Stanley Cup teams, stopped 28 shots for his fifth shutout of the season and the 80th of his NHL career. Patrik Elias, Zach Parise and Brian Gionta scored for the Devils, who won for the 12th time in 15 games. They also killed a 50-second two-man Carolina advantage in the third period.
"We knew we were playing a tough opponent, and we wanted to play our A game," Brodeur said. "It was like a playoff atmosphere out there."
During a 36-minute ceremony before the game, Stevens spoke, sometimes haltingly, for eight minutes -- six minutes longer than planned. As he promised Thursday, he did not cry, although he paused twice to compose himself.
"I leave this incredible game with no regrets and amazing memories," he said at the end of his speech.
He stopped. The crowd began to chant, "Scotty Stevens." He smiled, and the fans let out an even bigger cheer.
"You guys are amazing," he said, looking toward the rafters. "Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart."
The crowd chanted, "Thank you, Scotty." Stevens and his wife, his parents and his three children walked down a red carpet to a table, then watched silently as a white banner with Stevens' name, number and 1991-2005 on it was pulled to the rafters.
Thousands of flashbulbs went off in the darkened arena, and Stevens left the ice. He had said his ceremony would last shorter than the one the Rangers held Jan. 12 for Mark Messier, their beloved retired captain. (Messier's ceremony lasted 77 minutes.)
"I will never forget this night," Stevens told reporters after the first period. "I didn't think it would be anything like this at all."
Stevens, 41, retired Sept. 6, after a 22 seasons in the NHL; he played his final 13 with the Devils. Suffering from the effects of a concussion, Stevens played his 1,635th and final game Jan. 7, 2004, setting the NHL record for most games by a defenseman.
The ceremony was emotional. Elias, a left wing who has been mentioned as a successor to Stevens as the team's captain, blinked back tears. So did Stevens' wife, Donna, whom he met as a 17-year-old in Kitchener, Ontario.
The Devils scored their first goal 2 minutes 18 seconds into the second period. Carolina center Doug Weight, who was playing his first game for the Hurricanes, appeared to lose track of his defensive assignment. As the Devils' Gionta whirled around him, Weight dashed to the center of the ice.