It took a long time—a decade, to be exact—but goaltender Scott Clemmensen finally has his first career Stanley Cup playoff victory. And it came against his old mentor—sort of.
Clemmensen came on in relief of Jose Theodore on Tuesday night, and stopped all 19 shots he faced to lift the visiting Florida Panthers to a 4-3 win over his old NHL team, the New Jersey Devils, at the Prudential Center in Newark.
The Devils took a 3-0 lead just 6:16 into the contest, before Clemmensen came on to blank the host team the rest of the way for the win and a 2-1 series lead for the Panthers. It was his first NHL playoff game since 2006 when he relieved former Devils teammate Martin Brodeur in a loss to Carolina, and just his second NHL playoff appearance ever.
A shot by Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky did go in off Clemmensen, 34, late in the second period last night, but officials ruled that the goalie had been interfered with by Devils forward Steve Bernier, and the tying goal was negated. Clemmensen is now 5-0 all time against New Jersey.
“For whatever reason, I’ve had success against these guys," said Clemmensen afterwards to The Star-Ledger. "I don’t want that comment to turn around and bite me here. For whatever the reason, obviously, this building I’m comfortable with. I know some of the shooters, some of the tendencies.”
Brodeur, whom Clemmensen backed up from 2001-2007 and in 2008-09, was pulled from the contest early in the second period after stopping nine of 12 shots. Johan Hedberg surrendered the game-winning goal later to Brian Campbell, the Panthers' third power-play goal of the night, and their third from a defenseman.
Drafted in the eighth round by New Jersey in 1997, Clemmensen played four years at Boston College, winning 99 games and recording 13 shutouts. He posted a record of 30-7-2 as a senior at BC in 2000-01 and backstopped the Eagles to their first national championship since 1949 with a 3-2 overtime win over North Dakota in the NCAA title game in Albany, where he later played for the Devils' minor-league affiliate, the Albany River Rats.
He turned pro in the fall of 2001, stopping a penalty shot by Peter Nedved in a preseason game against the New York Rangers at the Meadowlands, but he had to wait until 2003-04 to earn his first NHL victory.
Clemmensen, a 6'3", 205-pound native of Des Moines, Iowa, is now in his 10th NHL season. Besides the Panthers and Devils, he has also played with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and owns a career regular-season NHL record of 64-45-20 with a 2.64 goals-against average and seven shutouts. His best NHL season came in 2008-09 with New Jersey when he went 25-13-1 in 40 outings with a 2.39 GAA and two shutouts. He also helped the Devils qualify for the postseason as Brodeur was sidelined long term with a biceps injury.
Clemmensen went 14-6-6 with a 2.57 GAA and one whitewash with Florida in 2011-12, including a 3-1 win at New Jersey on Feb. 11.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow night in Newark, although Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen hasn't yet said if Clemmensen will get the start.