One minute Martin Brodeur had it and the next it was gone.
His stick, having slipped out of his hands, was on the ice and the New Jersey Devil goaltender was scrambling to get control of it to stop the puck that defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh had dumped into the Devil zone.
Brodeur was bent over trying to pick up the mishandled wood when the puck caromed off his stick and into the net for a second-period goal that helped the Ducks to a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday night in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
And how did his teammates react?
"They were laughing at me," Brodeur told reporters later, smiling. "You didn't think it was funny? I thought it was funny. It's definitely not fun to get scored on like that, but it's something you can't control. What are you going to do?"
The fluke goal, scored only 45 seconds after Patrik Elias had pulled the Devils even, gave the Ducks a 2-1 lead at 14:47 of the second period, but the Devils rallied to send the game into overtime before Ruslan Salei scored the winner.
The Devils may have been laughing at the time, but they didn't want Ozolinsh's goal to beat them. They wanted to save Brodeur that indignity.
"He helps us a lot more than that one goal hurt us," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "We fought back and got that play behind us and took it into overtime, which is what we wanted to do. Unfortunately, we didn't win."
Still, they weren't about to blame Brodeur, who produced shutouts in the first two games of a best-of-seven series the Devils still lead, two games to one.
"He's made enough plays for us that saved games that we weren't going to let that one beat us," said winger Jamie Langenbrunner.
Said Coach Pat Burns: "I'm not going to fault him for that."
Brodeur didn't sound as if he needed any propping up.
"I was laughing at myself a little bit," he said. "What are the odds you're going to have your stick slip out of your hands like that? It happens."
Eyeing the puck moving toward him, Brodeur stepped to his left out of the crease. "I was just going to try to play it and give it to my defenseman -- just to stop it -- and the stick just slipped out of my hands," he said. "It happened one other time this year, and my stick went all the way into the corner. I didn't have any stick to play the rest of the shift. This one, it was just an unfortunate bounce."
How strange was it?
"It's one of those goals you'll probably see once in the lifetime of every goalie," Brodeur said.
Unfortunately for Brodeur, it happened to him in the finals.
But his idol, Patrick Roy, also gave up a strange goal in the finals, costing the Colorado Avalanche a game against the Devils two years ago. And Roy rallied not only to lead the Avalanche to the title but also to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.
"I came back and thought I played a pretty darn good third period to keep us in the game and push it into overtime," Brodeur said.
But the extra period didn't end happily for the Devils, who lost when Salei's shot from the left point banged off the right post and into the net at 6:59.
Brodeur, though, wasn't about to beat himself up over it.
"I felt pretty good out there," he said, "except for that little mistake I made."