Clemmensen makes one of his 24 saves Friday in Washington.
newjerseydevils.com – If the Devils can continue to get solid goaltending, they should have an easier time picking up wins once their offense comes around.
New Jersey has struggled to find scoring and came up short Friday in Washington with a 3-1 defeat to the Capitals.
Patrik Elias scored for the Devils, who dropped their fourth straight. Brooks Laich and Tomas Fleischmann registered goals for Southeast-leading Washington, which has won five in a row. Alexander Ovechkin added an empty-netter.
Martin returned Friday after missing five games with an injury.
Scott Clemmensen got his second start since Martin Brodeur (torn biceps) was lost from the lineup on Nov. 1, and held the two Alexanders – Ovechkin and Semin – without a goal.
Ovechkin is the NHL's reigning MVP, while Semin entered the game with a league-best 13 goals and 27 points.
Clemmensen allowed only Laich's strike in the first, and Fleischmann's tally in the second, and finished with 24 saves. Washington's Jose Theodore stopped 32 Devils shots.
The challenge for the Devils without Brodeur was supposed to be keeping the puck out of their own net. The tandem of Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes has responded by holding opponents to three goals or less in five of the six games since Brodeur's injury.
A lack of goals, however, has resulted in New Jersey's 1-5 mark without the four-time Vezina Trophy winner.
Elias' fifth of the season was the lone marker for the Devils (7-7-2), who have scored five times during their current four-game skid.
Injuries have been a major hurdle, and the best Devils news Friday involved the return of defenseman Paul Martin, who had missed five games with upper body soreness.
Martin, the Devils' top-scoring blueliner in 2007-08 with 32 points, skated 24 shifts for 22:03 of ice time, including 2:04 on the power play.
Just as they had in Wednesday's 5-2 loss to the Rangers, the Devils got off to a quick start in the first period with 13 shots on goal
The Devils misfired on the first of their two power plays in the game after Fleischmann took a holding minor at 5:18. When New Jersey was whistled three minutes later for too many men, Washington converted.
Mike Green, who had two assists, worked the puck to Ovechkin for a shot from the top of the left circle, and Laich got his stick on it for a redirection inside the left post.
Laich's fourth of the season made it 1-0 at 9:52 of the first, and the score stayed that way until the second.
Washington made it 2-0 on Fleischmann's fifth of the year.
Former Devil Viktor Kozlov carried around the Devils' net and found Fleischmann in the left circle for a one-timer that beat Clemmensen top shelf with 1:29 left in the period.
The Devils did have scoring opportunities. But two sequences in the middle frame underscored the team's recent tough luck on offense.
First, John Madden tucked a backhander through Theodore's five-hole only to have the puck redirect off Theodore's right pad and dribble wide of the right post at 11:26
Later, Devils' leading scorer Zach Parise was primed to tie the score at 1-1, but was robbed with a brilliant goal-line stop by Theodore.
Brian Gionta's cross-slot pass reached Parise for a one-timer from the bottom of the right circle. Theodore reached across the line with the paddle of his stick and kept the Devils searching for their first goal.
In the third period, a New Jersey 3-on-2 break with Elias, Gionta and Dainius Zubrus almost connected.
Going up against a Caps' pairing of Milan Jurcina and John Erskine, Gionta's pass from the right side found Elias at the left circle for a backhander that carried high and wide of the net at 4:31.
Elias finally broke through in the third to cut the Washington lead in half.
Johnny Oduya passed from Devils' territory to Gionta in the neutral zone, and the right winger chipped the puck into the middle of the ice to send Elias in all alone.
Elias deked and snapped his fifth between Theodore's pads to make it 2-1 at 11:55.
The Devils pulled Clemmensen with about a minute left for the extra skater, but Ovechkin scored into the empty net with 21 seconds on the clock to seal it.
The teams meet Saturday in Newark to complete the home-and-home set.
NJD NOTES The NHL changed the scoring Friday on the Devils' second goal in Wednesday's game against the Rangers. The goal that had originally been awarded to Jamie Langenbrunner was credited as goal No. 12 for Parise. Langenbrunner receives the primary assist, with Anssi Salmela picking up the secondary helper... David Clarkson opened the second period with an excellent chance 38 seconds in, firing a wraparound off the right post behind Theodore... Mike Mottau saved a goal in the second period on a Caps' 2-on-1. He tied up Fleischmann with David Steckel's rebound sitting in front of an open net at 5:38 of the second. Without Mottau's play, Fleischmann would have had an easy tap-in for a 2-0 lead... Clemmensen's other start this season was Sunday's 2-1 loss to Edmonton, in which he recorded 26 saves.
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