NEWARK, N.J. – Scott Clemmensen is showing he can handle the full-time goaltending duties for the New Jersey Devils, while all-star Martin Brodeur recovers from elbow surgery.
“There’s a tremendous amount of confidence in him, from his teammates and from the coaching staff,” Devils coach Brent Sutter said after Clemmensen came up big in the shootout Sunday, making four saves to secure a 3-2 victory for the Devils over their Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia Flyers.
“He now has the confidence he can do it and we have the confidence in him,” Sutter said after Clemmensen improved to 11-3-1 overall and 2-1 in shootouts. “Clemmer made some big saves in the shootout and did a good job.”
Clemmensen, who made 27 saves through overtime, then came up huge with three straight saves in the shootout after Mike Richards found the net for the Flyers, feels like he’s getting accustomed to his role. Sunday was the fourth straight time he started in goal and the 12th in the past 13 games.
He’s going to hold the position until Brodeur can come back, possibly by late February.
“It’s definitely a challenge going to the shootout,” Clemmensen said. “You’re facing the best players on each team. It’s fun for the fans and it’s entertaining and it’s definitely a big challenge to come up with saves. I guess it’s a fun challenge. I’m still learning how to play in all kinds of situations.”
The Devils earned the win when Travis Zajac slid the puck past Flyers goalkeeper Antero Niittymaki on the fifth shootout attempt.
“I was thinking going glove side the whole way,” Zajac said about the game-winner. “I watched Jamie (Langenbrunner) before me (on a shot where Langenbrunner scored) and I noticed him (Niittymaki) far back in the goal, so I thought I could get it over him.”
“It looked pretty,” Sutter said of Zajac’s goal. “It was a great shot. He made a great fake and put it top shelf.”
The Devils secured the victory after relinquishing a 2-0 lead.
“If you’re up 2-0, you never want to let the opposition come back on you,” Sutter said. “We played on our heels too much in the third period.”
New Jersey defeated Philadelphia for the first time in four meetings this season. The Devils (19-9-3) pulled within two points of the Flyers (18-9-6) in the Atlantic Division, behind the division-leading New York Rangers.
After a scoreless first period, the Devils opened the scoring on the power play. Patrik Elias skated in on the left side unguarded and knocked home a rebound of a slap shot by Zajac at the 7:30 mark. It was Elias’ 16th goal of the season.
Just 1:06 later, Brian Rolston, who recently returned after missing more than a month with a high ankle sprain, scored his second goal in the past three games, with assists going to David Clarkson and Bobby Holik.
The Flyers then sliced the lead in half when Jeff Carter scored on the power play with 2:42 remaining in the period. Carter was untouched in front of the goal and his shot beat Clemmensen for his 25th goal of the season.
The Devils looked to have the game in hand, but then Carter made a nice play late in the game. With 4:44 left in the third, Carter skated into the corner and lifted a backhanded pass in front to Joffrey Lupul, who slid the puck past Clemmensen for the game-tying goal. It was Lupul’s 12th goal of the season and it sent the game into overtime.
Clemmensen had the biggest save in overtime, when he stopped Carter from point-blank range with 1:54 remaining.
“Every time I take the ice, I feel like I have to prove that I can handle anything thrown my way,” Clemmensen said. “I just have to be consistent. I think I’m showing that I belong.”
Notes: Devils standout defensive forward John Madden sat out for the second straight game with flu-like symptoms, while defenceman Bryce Salvador was a scratch due to an undisclosed upper-body injury. Madden is expected to return when the Devils host Eastern Conference leader Boston on Tuesday night. Salvador’s return is still undetermined. … Centre Glen Metropolit, defenceman Lasse Kukkonen and defenceman Luca Sbisa were scratches for the Flyers, who started Antero Niittymaki in goal instead of Martin Biron. It was only the 14th appearance of the season for Niittymaki.