The line of Elias, Zubrus and Gionta combined for six points (2g-4a) in Thursday's win.
newjerseydevils.com – Thanks to Scott Clemmensen's excellent play, the Devils notched their first regulation win this season without Martin Brodeur starting in net.
Clemmensen, making his third straight start, recorded several brilliant stops for his second win of the year, and helped to lead New Jersey to a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers Thursday at Prudential Center.
|Led by Clemmensen's 23 saves, the Devils improved to 3-5 without Martin Brodeur.
Paul Martin and Brian Gionta scored in a 62-second span of the third period as the Devils took a 3-0 lead before Panthers' rookie Michael Frolik ended Clemmensen's bid for his first shutout since 2004.
Patrik Elias scored on New Jersey's only shot of the second, but it was Clemmensen that kept the Devils in it, stopping 10 of 10 in the middle frame.
"I thought our goaltender played well," Devils head coach Brent Sutter said. "He made some big saves at key times. That's what you want from your goaltender."
Two of Clemmensen's 23 saves in the contest will find their way onto the Devils' 2008-09 highlight reel. He denied David Booth's one-timer from the slot at the 8:44 mark of the second, and went post-to-post to foil Frolik's one-timer with 3:35 left in the period.
The Devils improved to 9-7-2 by posting back-to-back wins for the first time since taking three straight from Oct. 16-22. The club has capitalized on its match-ups against opponents from the Southeast Division, going 6-1-0 to secure 12 of a possible 14 points.
New Jersey looks to stockpile more points against sub-.500 opponents Friday night when the Islanders visit Newark. The Devils then head to Tampa Sunday and Florida Wednesday before facing four of five within the Atlantic Division.
The Devils outshot the Panthers 12-5 in a scoreless first period, misfiring on a pair of power plays. New Jersey finished the contest 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
They took a 1-0 lead in the second period, when Elias netted his eighth of the season. The red-hot left wing later added an assist on Gionta's goal for his sixth point in three games (4g-2a).
Dainius Zubrus controlled at the right boards for Gionta near the right corner, and Gionta hit a streaking Elias for a backhand around Tomas Vokoun's left pad at 6:47.
The assist extended Gionta's points streak to three games (2g-2a). Zubrus snapped a five-game dry spell with two assists.
The Devils' zone turned into a shooting gallery in the second, but Clemmensen held strong as New Jersey was outshot, 10-1. Stephen Weiss passed from behind the net to set up Booth's chance, and Richard Zednik carried around the right post to find Frolik at the left circle.
Both times, Clemmensen produced saves that dazzled the Prudential Center crowd.
"We found a way to win," said Sutter. "We had a very good first period. We kind of lost it a little bit in the second and got it back in the third. It was one of those games where we had to scratch and claw."
Though the Devils mustered just seven shots to Florida's 19 over the final 40 minutes, they took control in the third period.
Martin gathered David Clarkson's cross-ice pass and stepped around a sliding Zednik at the right circle for a wrister through Vokoun at 5:49. Sixty-two seconds after Martin's first of the season, Gionta buried his fourth of the year to break the game open at 3-0.
Gionta and Elias worked a 2-on-1 through the defense of Karlis Skrastins, and Gionta tapped home his second goal in as many games at 6:51.
Elias' high-sticking penalty against Bryan McCabe gave the Panthers a power play at 7:30 of the third.
Frolik used it to score his first NHL goal with a slapshot from just above the right circle. Clemmensen came 11:18 shy of his third career shutout, and first since March 26, 2004 in Atlanta.
Clemmensen improved to 2-2. He made a career-high 13 appearances in 2005-06, and finished 3-4-2... Sutter did not indicate after the game who would start Friday against the Islanders. Kevin Weekes last got the nod Nov. 12 versus the Rangers... All five of the Devils' regulation wins this season have come against opponents with losing records. Entering Thursday's meeting with Florida, the Devils had beaten the Islanders (Oct. 10), Atlanta (Oct. 16, Nov. 1), and Dallas (Oct. 22) in regulation... After Friday's game, the Devils go on the road for five, including stops in Pittsburgh (Nov. 29), Philadelphia (Dec. 4) and Montreal (Dec. 6).
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