NEWARK, N.J. – Scott Clemmensen enjoyed a happy homecoming at the expense of Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils.
Clemmensen made 26 saves to beat his former teammates, Michael Frolik scored twice and the Florida Panthers ended a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Devils on Friday night.
“All of the sights and the sounds of this building really put me at ease,” Clemmensen said. “It was good to be back here. I’ve got a lot of good memories in this building. I’ll put tonight’s win up there with them.”
Jordan Leopold and Shawn Matthias also scored, and Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss each had two assists to help Florida improve to 2-5-4 in its last 11 games.
Brian Rolston and Dean McAmmond scored for New Jersey, winners of four in a row coming in and seven of their previous eight.
Clemmensen, Brodeur’s backup for most of his career, faced the Devils for the first time. He saved the Devils last season when Brodeur went down with a biceps injury that required surgery. Clemmensen stepped in to win 25 games, a performance that earned him a free-agent contract with the Panthers.
Clemmensen got the decision in his first showdown with Brodeur, the NHL’s winningest goalie.
“I respect him and the organization so much,” Clemmensen said. “It does mean a lot for me to come in here and beat them. I don’t mean that in a negative sense at all. It’s a big win for me and the team as well.”
Brodeur, in the opposing locker room, was still feeling the sting of defeat.
“I just lost a game, so I don’t think I’m happy for somebody else,” Brodeur said. “I’m sure he was looking forward to this game, so good for him.”
Leopold scored an early goal, providing a big lift for the struggling team that had scored only five goals in its previous four games. Florida worked an effective cycle deep in the Devils’ zone with Horton and Weiss controlling the puck before sliding it to Leopold for a drive from above the left hash mark 3:53 into the game.
Frolik and Matthias connected 55 seconds apart in the second to make it 3-0.
Frolik displayed some fancy stick work to net a power-play goal at 2:34. Having already skated across the slot, Frolik reached back to deflect Keith Ballard’s shot from the left point past Brodeur.
The Panthers had their third goal shortly after as Steven Reinprecht flipped a shot on net from the right circle that Matthias deflected home.
The Devils finally broke through on Clemmensen when Rolston scored at 7:16 on a shot from the top of the left circle.
New Jersey crept closer when McAmmond scored 1:05 into the third. McAmmond banked a shot off Ballard’s skate for his first tally as a Devil.
Just when it looked as if the game was slipping away from Florida, Frolik came through again at 2:23. Sprung for a breakaway by a long lead pass from Horton, Frolik flipped a forehand over Brodeur’s right pad.
“The fourth goal was very important after they came back,” Frolik said. “I was just skating in the middle and Hortie just saw me there. I just did what I did there.”
The three-goal deficit proved too deep a hole for the Devils.
“We got down early and that was tough,” Rolston said. “We tried to fight back and we just didn’t play a characteristic game for us. Clemmensen played well tonight but I don’t think we tested him enough.”
NOTES: Florida scratched C Gregory Campbell (possible concussion) and LW Kenndal McArdle. The Devils scratches were LW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (recalled from Lowell of the AHL on Thursday), LW Andrew Peters and D Matt Corrente. … Clemmensen was cheered by the Prudential Center crowd when the starting lineups were announced. … Even with the loss, the Devils still posted their best start after 30 games: 21-8-1.