NEWARK, N.J. – All the New Jersey Devils needed to knock off the big bad Boston Bruins was another shutout from their backup goalie and a bouncing goal from a stay-at-home defenceman.
Scott Clemmensen and Bryce Salvador probably won’t be counted on for similar performances in the playoffs, but their contributions went a long way toward a statement win.
“We’ve really made a strong push to get to the top of the standings,” said Clemmensen, who made 31 saves in the Devils’ 1-0 win over Eastern Conference-leading Boston on Friday night. “If we’re going to make that next push and be an elite level team in this league, we’ve got to beat teams like this.”
The Devils, first in the Atlantic Division, won for the 12th time in 14 games and closed within 10 points of the Bruins – the NHL’s top team.
Clemmensen had his second straight shutout after going nearly five years without one in the NHL, and Salvador provided a rare bit of offence to back him.
Clemmensen, still subbing for the soon-to-return Martin Brodeur, is staking his claim for more playing time after the four-time Vezina Trophy winner comes back from the elbow injury that has sidelined him most of the season.
The 31-year-old backup has 32 career wins in 65 games over four NHL seasons.
“I don’t know what is going to happen when he comes back,” Clemmensen said “I just know that if called upon, I’m going to play the best that I can. It’s taken me so long, and it’s been so hard to get here that I’m not going to take any game for granted or any situation for granted.”
Clemmensen snapped his shutout drought Monday with a 27-save, 3-0 win over the New York Rangers, his first blanking since March 2004, and duplicated the feat four days later against the Bruins.
“We know we can beat anyone in the league no matter what,” Clemmensen said.
Salvador scored his first goal in 22 games 10:54 into the second period, and Clemmensen made it stand up by stopping 31 shots – 13 in the middle frame – for his fourth NHL shutout.
Tim Thomas made 17 saves, but wanted Salvador’s hopping shot back.
“I picked it up right away. I had plenty of time,” Thomas said. “I went to make sure I put in the corner with my stick. I moved my stick a little bit too fast. I basically fanned on it. There wasn’t much traffic on that one.
“That was the easiest shot of the night. They kind of lull you to sleep. All of a sudden you get a shot that’s so soft, you just miss it.”
The Devils are 3-1 on their homestand that concludes Sunday against San Jose, the top team in the West. Kevin Weekes earned the victory Wednesday against the New York Islanders.
After the Bruins and Devils were denied scoring chances, Salvador connected. John Madden won a faceoff in the right circle back to Salvador in the slot. The defenceman calmly snapped off a wrist shot that dipped and bounced past Thomas.
Salvador hadn’t scored since Dec. 17 at Buffalo, his last game before an inner ear infection forced him to sit out the next five.
“I don’t get too many goals a year, so I definitely take them when I can,” Salvador said. “I’ll tell my dad it was top shelf.”
Boston dominated play in each of the first two periods and had nothing to show for it. The Bruins outshot the Devils 10-5 in the first, despite giving up two power plays to New Jersey and not having any.
The Devils were fortunate not to give up a short-handed goal on their first chance when Boston controlled play in the offensive zone.
The pace was fast in the entertaining second period as the puck moved end to end. Boston again got the better of play with a 13-8 edge in shots, but Clemmensen was the difference.
After Clemmensen knocked a quick shot away with his glove, Vladimir Sobotka charged toward the loose puck and an open right side of the net in front of him. Sobotka nudged the puck with his skate as he was falling and the puck caught the right post. Clemmensen sprawled on his stomach with his stick outstretched to keep Sobotka from getting another swipe.
“We played a good game,” Thomas said. “We could have easily won that game. We needed a couple of bounces and few pucks to go in. Clemmensen looked like he was in a zone. He played really well.”
Notes: Eight of Salvador’s 10 points (three goals, seven assists) have come at home. … The Bruins were without forwards Chuck Kobasew and Petteri Nokelainen, who were injured in Tuesday’s home loss to San Jose. Neither player travelled to New Jersey for the start of a five-game road trip that continues Saturday at Nashville. … Boston was 0-for-2 on the power play and has failed to click with the advantage in seven of eight games (2-for-31).