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Clarkson coming through in the clutch

Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:10 PM ET / News
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Clarkson coming through in the clutch

NEW YORK -- It wasn't too long ago New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson was regarded as that prototypical grinder, always willing to drop the gloves and retreat into areas on the ice where only the strong survive.

That seems like eons ago right about now.

Make no mistake, while Clarkson will never shy away from body contact and, on occasion, shout a few choice words at an opponent in his face, he has also transformed into a one tough offensive hombre this season.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he's become Mr. Clutch.

Clarkson scored his third game-winning playoff goal on Wednesday to help lead the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals at Madison Square Garden.

"Mr. Clutch? I don't know about that," Clarkson said with a grin. "I'm going to stay up and down and finish my checks and those pucks just bounce off me and go in, it seems. But it's a great feeling to be able to contribute and to get a stick on a few."

Clarkson certainly got his stick on the goal that broke New York's back on Wednesday when he deflected a shot from the point by Adam Henrique 2:31 into the third period to snap a 2-2 tie. As only a player with a deft offensive touch, Clarkson raised his stick and connected with the rising shot at his chest past Henrik Lundqvist.

All three of Clarkson's postseason goals have been winners. In the conference semifinal round against the Philadelphia Flyers, he connected for the game-winners in Game 2 and Game 5.

When asked about Clarkson playoff heroics, Ilya Kovalchuk smiled before doing some quick math.

"It's nice … every goal is game-winner," Kovalchuk said. "Hopefully, he'll get seven more."

Seven more game-winners, of course, would give the Devils their fourth Stanley Cup in team history.

"Clarkie's been great all year and always seems to find that big goal, and it's fun to play with him," Henrique said. "He's always in there causing stuff and he came through big time for us."

Clarkson, who played on a line with Henrique and Alexei Ponikarovsky, finished with 15:05 of ice time, took three shots and delivered two hits.

"Personally, I knew I had to do more for my line and, as a team, we knew we had to get in front of [Lundqvist]," Clarkson said. "Whether it was front of him so he couldn't see it, or getting a stick on it, we did a lot a lot of good things down low in their zone. He's an unbelievable goalie, so it's tough to get it by him if he can see it. We did a good job with that stuff."

Through 14 playoff games, Clarkson's nine points have him tied with Zach Parise for third-most on the team, while his plus-6 rating trails only defenseman Bryce Salvador (plus-8) and Henrique (plus-7). For the record, his 20 penalty minutes also lead the team.

"David Clarkson comes off at Game 1 … I think he was real average to now outstanding [Wednesday]," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "He scored a big goal for us and our team has a resiliency to it. We usually respond in the right way."

Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who made 23 saves in recording his 108th career playoff victory, knows the energy that Clarkson brings to the lineup.

"Everybody needs to play with a lot of energy, but I think Clarkie is a guy that is hard to play against when he's strong on the puck, on the boards, and when he gets himself positioned well in front of the net and be able to make some plays around the net," Brodeur said. "I thought he was a pretty dominant player in the offensive zone and we need him to be like that a little more. Every time he scores, it's a game-winner."

Clarkson, who finished third on the team with a career-high 30 goals and ranked fifth with a career-high 46 points, said the 2011-12 campaign has been extra special. He also topped the team with 138 penalty minutes.

"It's been a fun ride," he said. "I don't know if it's getting good bounces or what's happening, but it's been fun. With team success, individuals get success and that's what's happening."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 49 36 9 4 161 110 76
2 FLA 51 31 15 5 141 112 67
3 TBL 51 29 18 4 137 118 62
4 NYR 51 28 18 5 146 132 61
5 BOS 51 27 18 6 149 136 60
6 NYI 49 26 17 6 134 121 58
7 DET 51 25 18 8 125 130 58
8 NJD 52 26 20 6 117 118 58
9 PIT 50 25 18 7 129 128 57
10 CAR 53 24 21 8 129 141 56
11 PHI 49 23 18 8 117 128 54
12 MTL 52 24 24 4 137 141 52
13 OTT 52 23 23 6 142 164 52
14 TOR 50 19 22 9 116 134 47
15 BUF 52 21 26 5 119 137 47
16 CBJ 54 21 28 5 135 168 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
L. Stempniak 52 15 23 7 38
M. Cammalleri 42 14 24 15 38
K. Palmieri 52 20 15 3 35
A. Henrique 50 16 16 14 32
T. Zajac 44 7 17 6 24
D. Schlemko 44 6 9 -8 15
A. Larsson 52 2 11 12 13
D. Severson 50 1 12 0 13
A. Greene 52 4 6 2 10
J. Moore 44 3 7 -1 10
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
C. Schneider 23 15 5 .929 2.03
K. Kinkaid 3 5 1 .909 2.52
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