PITTSBURGH (AP)—Devils rookie goalie Scott Clemmensen’s first NHL start couldn’t have gone much easier. So easy, he considers most nights in the AHL to be far more challenging.
Of course, Clemmensen doesn’t get to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the minors, either.
Clemmensen shut out Pittsburgh on 25 shots and Turner Stevenson had two goals and an assist in New Jersey’s 3-0 victory over the Penguins on Tuesday night.
Clemmensen, a surprise starter called up from Albany (AHL), withstood a brief flurry of shots early in the first period to become the second Devils backup to shut out the Penguins in as many games in Pittsburgh. Corey Schwab, who injured a groin Monday in practice and didn’t dress, beat them 2-0 on Dec. 27.
“I only had four shots in the whole third period, and I’m used to seeing a lot more shots—a lot more quality shots (in the AHL),” Clemmensen said. “So it was a little easier (than playing in the AHL). They had a lot of scoring chances but they didn’t get a lot of good wood on them and I was able to survive.”
Clemmensen is the first NHL goalie to get a shutout in his first career start since Michael Leighton of the Blackhawks on Jan. 8, 2003, against Phoenix. Clemmensen played briefly in two games with New Jersey in the 2001-02 season; he was 5-12-4 with a mediocre 3.07 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage with Albany this season.
Devils regular goalie Martin Brodeur is threatening the NHL record of 15 shutouts in a season—he has nine in 41 games—but has allowed five goals while going 2-1 against Pittsburgh. The Devils are 3-0-1 when Brodeur doesn’t start, allowing only two goals.
“As many games as he does play, maybe something in us makes us tighten up (when he doesn’t),” forward Jeff Friesen said. “Maybe psychologically the other team thinks it’s an advantage he’s not playing.”
Despite Schwab’s injury, Devils coach Pat Burns decided to give Brodeur his planned night off despite Clemmensen’s glaring lack of experience. The Devils decided Monday to play Clemmensen, but didn’t reveal their starter until just before game time.
“We just made the decision (to go) with the best goalie down there, and let’s go for it,’ Burns said. “It worked out.”
The Penguins, losing their sixth straight home game, pressured Clemmensen throughout a first period in which they outshot the Devils 12-4—a rare occurrence for a team that has been outshot in 39 of 48 games. Seeing so many shots early may have helped the 26-year-old Clemmensen settle down, and he faced only 13 more shots.
“It made me feel comfortable, kind of like playing for the River Rats,” Clemmensen said. “It got me into the game right away. It wasn’t a positive thing for the team, but it was for me.”
It wasn’t for the Penguins, either.
“We probably missed the net 15 times and then refused to shoot another dozen times,” coach Eddie Olczyk said. “We had out chances, but the kid in net played well.”
No doubt it helped Clemmensen that he played most of the game with the lead. Stevenson made it 1-0 midway through the first, directing Friesen’s pass into a wide-open net after goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin slid to his right to defend against Friesen.
Friesen scored his ninth early in the second with a virtual one-man rush; he grabbed the puck along the left wing boards, carried it behind the net, lost it briefly, then tapped it back onto his stick. Emerging on the other side of the net, he beat Aubin from along the edge of the right circle.
Stevenson made it 3-0 late in the second, putting a shot between Aubin’s pads after a Penguins giveaway in their own end.
Stevenson had only three goals in 24 games before scoring in each of the first two periods against the team he torments the most. Stevenson has 10 of his 65 NHL goals in 39 career games against Pittsburgh.
The Penguins are one loss short of tying the club record for consecutive home losses of seven, set from Oct. 8-29, 1983. They have been outscored 29-3during their losing streak.
New Jersey is 12-4-7 on the road. … The Penguins have lost their last four overall. … New Jersey is 3-2-1 since star D Scott Stevens was lostindefinitely with a concussion. … The Devils are 3-1-1 against Pittsburgh.