NEWARK, NJ – All it took was a lead.
Bobby Holik scored eights minutes into the second period and Zach Parise added a power play goal 1:27 later, giving the New Jersey Devils a lead the New York Rangers could not over come.
The Devils won 3-0, and goaltender Scott Clemmensen earned his first shutout this season and the first since March 26, 2004.
“It’s most important to get the win, but now that I have one, I can say it feels really good,” said Clemmensen.
New Jersey (34-17-3) is now 25-0-1 when taking a lead into the third period. Finding that lead, though, has been difficult for the Devils recently.
Clemmensen was solid early, making glove saves and protecting rebounds on several Rangers’ power plays. His teammates also kept the pressure off of him by keeping the puck in the offensive zone.
The Devils outshot the Rangers 13-7 in the first period, including several two-on-one rushes and short handed opportunities. New York is last in the NHL in short-handed goals allowed, and New Jersey’s penalty kill unit seemed more aggressive than usual because of it.
In the beginning of the second period, John Madden and Brendan Shanahan created a shorthanded two-on-one opportunity that was deflected behind Lundqvist, but “King Henrik” was not safe for long from his former teammate.
Shanahan, playing in his first game against his former club, pushed the puck up ice with eight minutes gone in the second. He sent the puck to Patrick Elias on the wing, and Elias passed back to Shanahan behind the net.
Shanahan found Holik on the left post and put the puck right where Holik could tap the puck in between Lundqvist’s legs.
“For once in a long time, I timed it well and it skated right into him. A little bit of hard work and a lot of luck,” explained Holik.
Before the Prudential Center crowd could calm down from the first goal, a holding penalty was called on Rangers center Brian Dubinsky, and the Devils’ power play unit capitalized.
At 9:27, Jamie Langenbrunner sent the puck from the point on net. With Parise crashing, Travis Zajac knocked the puck out of the air and swept it to Parise on the left post. Parise knocked the puck past Lundqvist to extend the lead to 2-0.
Taking the lead into the third period was important to all the Devils, but especially to Clemmensen.
“I didn’t want to give up a goal, because that would have brought them within a goal of tying us,” Clemmensen said. “They battled all the way to the very end, and I expect nothing less from them.”
He helped his own cause by making a great save on Aaron Voros in the third period.
Voros made a charge down the left wing and put a shot in on Clemmensen that took a funny bounce.
Clemmensen made the save and another on a Chris Drury one-timer half way through the third that was deflected out of play.
With all of the lines for New Jersey working hard to keep the puck out of harms way, the Rangers had to up the offensive pressure.
With just under two minutes left in the game, Lundqvist was pulled for an extra attacker.
On the ensuing faceoff, Zach Parise took the puck from Langenbrunner and skated all the way to the other end of the ice, scoring an empty-net goal with 1:23 left to seal the game.
Shanahan down played the rematch with his former teammates, saying “The focus was on us getting a win against a division rival.”
Head coach Brent Sutter was extremely pleased with his team’s effort and performance, a change from the previous home games. “We responded well, it was a very solid game on our part, through our whole lineup,” he said.
The Devils will have another chance to put on a show for the home crowd against a division rival when the Islanders come to the Prudential Center on Wednesday. New Jersey hosts two more games this week, against the Boston Bruins on Friday and the San Jose Sharks on Sunday.
Check out www.devilsmademedoit.com for more from Melinda on the Devils homestand.