Since signing with the Devils over the summer, Scott Clemmensen’s main wish was that he would be the backup goaltender to Martin Brodeur. In a wild, crazy way, he became one of two backup goaltenders to Brodeur when the franchise hero went out with a torn bicep. What is the secret to his success?
“I’ve played games here before in the past,” Clemmensen said. “And I’ve played well, but I’ve always known that if I wasn’t going to play again for a while, it’s hard to play when you’re only playing once a month, once every two months.
“Playing on a regular basis helps you get into a rhythm and helps you think less and go more on instinct. The less you think out there, the better, especially if you’re the goalie. I try not to think too much. It’s a rhythm, confidence thing, instinct thing and the more you play, the easier it is when you’re playing well. I feel like I’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks. When you’re doing that, the game seems to go faster as well. I think that the team kind of builds off it. It’s good.”
Playing in net for the last six straight games has been key for Clemmers. While the Devils were on the road for the last five games, the team posted only one loss during the 18-day road trip. That loss was to the Pittsburgh Penguins, where Sidney Crosby scored a hat trick.
“In our building,” Clemmensen said of the loss. “Obviously it’s more comfortable playing home then in their rink. They really took it to us in the first two periods where we were back on our heels for forty minutes and then [we tried] to play catch-up for the last twenty. I think tonight it was more a 60 minute effort.”
While most believed that the Penguins had a better chance at beating the Devils because they are farther up in the conference rankings (failing to point out that the Penguins have played more regular season games this season then most of the other teams in the division); they were last year’s Eastern Conference champions; they have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin; and the Devils don’t have Martin Brodeur. The cards were always stacking higher in favor of the Penguins, but the way things are is that you should never stack your cards one way or the other, because the odds can always be defied.
On Wednesday night, the Devils defended their territory and kept the rivalry going. There were six roughing penalties during the game. Four of which came during the first 16:27 of the scoreless first period.
David Clarkson and Maxime Talbot got the party started at 3:52, followed by Jay Leach and Talbot again at 16:27.
During the second stanza, Clemmensen was called on a delay of game penalty at 16:54. The call had many of us scratching our heads asking, “What?” Which was later explained to us by Clemmensen.
“I’m not going to argue too much with the ref about this one,” Clemmers explained. “They instituted a new rule where they want the goalies to play the puck, which is fine by me. I like to play the puck as much to keep the play moving. But in that instance there, my defenseman broke his stick. I really wanted to freeze the puck as it got closer to the net. It was kind of behind the net there. I grabbed it in my glove and pulled it back out in front. He [the ref] was yelling at me at that time. He was yelling at me to play it and obviously there was nothing I could do about it at that time. I don’t think that he liked me pulling it from behind the net back in front. I think that was the whole issue there.
“I don’t know enough about the rule, and obviously each ref is going to call it differently, so I’m not going to argue with him there. But there really wasn’t much I could do. As soon as my defenseman broke his stick…I knew I wanted to freeze it. And as soon as I dove for it, when I was behind the net there a little bit, that was it. It’s all or nothing at that point. I’m not going to let up on it at that point. Call me crude…delay of game…I don’t like it, but I’m not going to argue with it.”
The Penguins power play advantage on Clemmensen’s delay of game was cut short when Ruslan Fedotenko headed to the penalty box for high-sticking. Twenty-two seconds later, Travis Zajac sent a shot to the boards, which turned Pittsburgh’s goaltender Dany Sabourin around. The puck bounced back to Zajac’s stick and he was able to catch Sabourin off-guard and tally the Devils first goal of the game at Sabourin’s back door at 17:39.
Zach Parise continued the scoring at the beginning of the third period, scoring his sixteenth goal of the season at 2:18. Dainius Zubrus followed with the Devils third goal of the game at 10:12.
All of this goal scoring started to get under Crosby’s skin. The Devils were scoring and not the Penguins. That frustration hit a high note when he grabbed Brian Gionta from behind and pulled him down to the ice. Without even looking to see who had brought him down, Gionta jumped up and started swinging punches into the abdomen of the instigator. After they were broken up, Gio was able to get a look at the guy who started it all.
Crosby was issued two, two-minute penalties for holding and roughing. Gionta also headed to the penalty box for roughing at 13:05.
“A little bit there in the second, you could hear him talking back to the ref a little bit more,” Clemmensen told the press. “Obviously when he grabbed Gionta, I figured that we probably got to him a little bit there. That’s what happens when you’re a great player, you expect great things. It’s frustrating not winning. That’s for sure. We’ve all been there.”
It wasn’t until the last four minutes of regulation that the Penguins would be able to tally their only goal of the game from Matt Cooke at 16:02.
A little over a minute later, Bryce Salvador went down on the ice, right in front of the crease, after taking a puck to the face. It was a really bad hit. Blood was gushing all over the ice. When Salvador jumped back up a minute later, he was so disoriented, he almost ran directly into the boards. The medical trainer was able to grab him before he hit the glass. Reporters who were able to talk to Bryce post-game said the injury was really bad. He had several stitches and cuts all over his face. The Devils should find out today what the extent of his injury is and approximately how long they think he will be out.
“He’s fine,” Coach Sutter said after the game. “He got some stitches. I haven’t been told anything different.”
Patrik Elias ended the Devils scoring with an empty netter from center ice with 41 seconds left in regulation, ending the game 4-1.
“We played a very solid game here tonight,” Sutter said after the game. “We played smart. We never gave much.
“When you want to be a good team, you have to be a good team. It’s just the way it is. You have to play at their level and better.”
“We played hard,” Gionta said after the win. “Overall, we took it to ‘em from the drop of the puck. [We] kept them back on their heels. It showed.”
The Devils will host their other division rival, the New York Rangers, on Friday night. Similar to the Penguins, the Rangers have played six more games then the Devils. The Rangers are at the top of the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference.
The Rangers will host their annual Toys for Tots Thursday in Bryant Park from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.