NEWARK – Jacques Lemaire’s second go-round with the Devils has officially began.
The Devils used solid goaltending from Yann Danis and a surprise scoring output by David Clarkson to defeat the New York Rangers 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday night.
The pre-season opener featured Danis in net the whole game. With starting goaltender Martin Brodeur not suiting up for the game, initially Jeff Frazee was supposed to split ice time with Danis. But Lemaire changed the game plan after two shut-out periods by the free-agent acquisition.
“I thought he was doing well, and I hate to pull a goalie … when you’re having a good game,” explained Lemaire.
In all, Danis stopped 29 shots during regulation, one in overtime, and five of the six shots he faced during the shootout.
“Guys did a good job in front of me all night,” Danis said. “I saw the puck all night. I cleared a few rebounds here and there, but they definitely made my job easier.”
Travis Zajac solidified Danis’ first win as a Devil by firing top-shelf over Rangers’ goaltender Chad Johnson in the sixth shootout round.
“When I looked up, it looked like he was cheating a little to left,” Zajac explained. “He was giving me high blocker, so I just took a quick shot.”
The Prudential Center crowd rose to their feet after both teams scored a goal in the third round. Zach Parise made a double move in front of Johnson to the right, and then slipped in left to deposit the puck behind the goalie. This counteracted rookie Matt Gilroy’s five-hole goal against Danis.
“I felt good throughout,” Danis said. “I think I was reading their moves pretty well.”
The Atlantic-Division adversaries were pushed into extra time when the Rangers’ young-guns dissolved the Devils’ two-goal lead.
Three minutes into the third period, Gilroy netted his first goal of his professional career on a pass from Aaron Voros. Sean Avery, who made his presence known early with a goalie interference and unsportsmanlike conduct double-major in the first period, was credited with the secondary assist.
With less than nine minutes left in the period, Jordan Owens slipped the puck past Danis, assisted by rookie Michael Del Zotto.
The Devils took control of the game early. Clarkson, splayed out in front of the net, shoved the puck past the Rangers’ starting goaltender Henrik Lundqvist at 13:31 of the first period on the power play.
Clarkson added his second goal on the power-play half-way through the second period.
“The puck was going in for me, and I was feeling good on the ice, and it’s something that I’ve been working on all summer to get ready,” Clarkson said.
Lemaire praised Clarkson for his work ethic and attitude during training camp, which opened Saturday, and rewarded him with the assistant captaincy for Wednesday’s game.
“I liked what he did at camp,” Lemaire stated. “He works hard and tries to do what we want, and is positive.”
The designation was special for Clarkson.
“It’s an honor, to be someone that’s chosen as one of those guys he considers a leader,” Clarkson explained. “I used to be a junior captain in juniors and in the American League a little bit, but to get a chance to do it in the NHL, I never thought I’d be in this league, never mind wearing the “A” one day, so it was pretty special to me.”
Lemaire said he was impressed with his veterans, and liked some of what he saw from the younger players. He also commented on how the different training camp styles benefited the Devils against the Blueshirts, who lost to Boston, 2-1, Tuesday night.
“We practiced a little bit, but I heard they didn’t practice much at all,” Lemaire said.
With one pre-season game in the books, the newest chapter in Jacques Lemaire’s Devils history is starting to take shape.
Notes: Lemaire sent a shock through the media when he explained giving Brendan Shanahan the captain’s “C” for the game as “When your captains injured, you won’t give the ‘C’ to anyone because you don’t have any more leaders on the team?” He later confirmed Jamie Langenbrunner was not injured, just routinely sitting out the game… Shanahan took Langenbrunner’s spot on the top line with Zajac and Zach Parise, and sported the number 14 on his sweater … up-and-coming defenseman Cory Murphy played well, but Lemaire said if he’s going to play in the NHL, he’ll have to score points … Free-agent acquisition Ilkka Pikkarainen also garnered praise for his work on the ice and in camp… the Devils out-shot the Rangers 4-1 in overtime, but could not convert, even with two minutes of 4-on-3 when Del Zotto was called for tripping… Next game: Wednesday, Sept. 23, at Nassau Coliseum against the Islanders.