On July 1, 2014, the New Jersey Devils dove into free agency to improve their team heading into 2014-15 and beyond. It was no secret that Cory Schneider was going to be the unquestioned starting goaltender, and his contract extension further solidified that point, but one position that remained a question mark was the back-up net minder. Would Keith Kinkaid, fresh off a solid season with the Albany Devils in which he led them to the postseason for the first time since 2010 (when they were based in Lowell), be the back-up?
The question still remains unanswered as general manager Lou Lamoriello signed unrestricted free agent Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen will now be in his third stint with Jersey’s Team after spending the last five seasons with the Florida Panthers. He was a part of the Panthers first playoff berth since the 1999-2000 season when the Panthers made the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, only to fall to the Devils in the opening round in seven games. With the return of Clemmensen to the organization that drafted him 215th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, The Hockey Writers will take a look back at Clemmensen’s top 10 moments while with the New Jersey Devils:
#1: January 20, 2004
Scott Clemmensen faced 25 shots and stopped them all in his first NHL start, a shutout over the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena. Turner Stevenson had two goals and an assist and Jeff Friesen had two assists in a 3-0 Devils victory. Clemmensen faced 13 shots in the opening period before facing 12 the rest of the game. He also helped New Jersey kill off all four Penguins power plays.
#2: March 26, 2004
Just three days after Martin Brodeur won the 400th game of his illustrious NHL career, Clemmensen got the start on the road against the Atlanta Thrashers. Just nine days earlier, in his last start, Clemmensen picked up the first home win in his NHL career when he stopped 14 of 15 shots in a 6-1 win over the same Penguins he faced in his first NHL start.
Against Atlanta, Clemmensen stopped all 18 shots that headed his way for his second NHL shutout victory in four starts. Scott Gomez had a pair of goals and an assist, Patrik Elias had a goal with two helpers, and defenseman Paul Martin notched a goal and an assist. The Devils defeated the Thrashers 5-0 with four of those goals coming on the power-play. Future Devil Ilya Kovalchuk had four shots on goal in the game for Atlanta.
#3: October 28-29, 2005
Before Clemmensen took control of the Devils crease during the 2008-09 season in place of the injured Brodeur, he had a dress rehearsal of sorts in the fall of 2005. With Brodeur scratched for the first time since April 16, 1998, with an injured right knee, Clemmensen became the Devils temporary number one starter for what would turn out to be six games.
After replacing Brodeur on October 26 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Clemmensen started on October 28 against the Buffalo Sabres at the Continental Airlines Arena. He turned aside 25 of 27 shots in a 3-2 victory. The Devils brought a 2-0 lead into the final frame before yielding two goals to the Sabres. Sergei Brylin, who had an assist earlier in the game, scored the go-ahead goal with 5:23 remaining in regulation. Clemmensen stopped all 11 shots in the first two periods combined before the Sabres peppered him with 16 shots in the third.
The next night would be a historic one for the franchise. In Boston against the Bruins, the Devils would take part in the first shootout in their history. New Jersey trailed 3-1 late in the second before Viktor Kozlov got them to within one. In the third period, Kozlov tied the game but Boston pulled ahead one minute and 19 seconds later. With 2:32 remaining, Alexander Mogilny got the equalizer and neither team would score again. Clemmensen stopped 22 of 26 shots in regulation and all five shots in overtime.
In the shootout, Kozlov scored the first goal in Devils shootout history and Sergei Samsonov was denied by Clemmensen in the first shot against. Joe Thornton has the honor of being the first opposing player to score against New Jersey in the shootout as he tied the shootout score in the second round. In the third and deciding round, Brian Gionta got the first shootout winner in team history while Clemmensen stopped Glen Murray as New Jersey won 5-4.
#4: March 24, 2006
Clemmensen’s next win for the Devils came in front of an emotional sold-out crowd of 19,040 at the Continental Airlines Arena. Prior to the game, the Devils retired #3 in honor of defenseman Ken Daneyko, who had retired following the 2003 Stanley Cup Championship after spending his entire career with New Jersey.
With “3” painted beneath the ice surface behind the nets, Clemmensen faced 27 shots and made 25 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Bruins. Gomez opened the scoring just 44 seconds into the game and Gionta made it 2-0 less than three minutes later. Zach Parise and Martin also scored for the Devils.
#5: November 15, 2008
Following Brodeur’s injury against the Thrasher at the Prudential Center on November 1, the Devils lost five of their next six games. Heading into their November 15 match-up against the Washington Capitals having lost four straight, including a loss to the Capitals on the road the night prior, New Jersey’s season was headed for disaster. It looked even bleaker when Alexander Ovechkin tied the game at 5-5 with one second remaining in the second half of the home-and-home set at the Rock, sending the game into overtime.
Clemmensen stopped both Washington shots in overtime and the battle went to a shoot-out. After two rounds the Devils led 1-0 on Parise’s goal and it all came down to Boyd Gordon. He moved in on Clemmensen and the goaltender instinctively poke-checked the puck and solidified a much needed 6-5 win. It was the start of a five-game winning streak for New Jersey in which they also won nine of their next ten games. As for Clemmensen, it was his first win in a stretch in which he won 11 of 13 games.
Scott Clemmensen stopped all three shooters in the shootout that turned the Devils 2008-09 season around:
#6: November 26, 2008
In the midst of that stretch for Clemmensen he made 36 saves on 38 shots in a 3-2 overtime win at the Florida Panthers. It was the most saves he has ever made in a victory with the Devils. After facing four shots in the opening period, Florida had 13 shots on goal in the second and 16 in the third period. Florida scored both of their goals in the third. He stopped all five shots he faced in overtime and ten power-play shots over the course of the game. His effort was not wasted when Johnny Oduya scored the overtime winner with 55.5 seconds left in overtime.
#7: December 27, 2008
Clemmensen stopped 31 of 33 shots in a 4-2 New Jersey win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. It was the first regulation loss during the regular season suffered by Henrik Lundqvist against the Devils at MSG. By far the best period by Clemmensen was the second in which he stopped 16 of 17 Rangers shots. Brian Rolston, Elias, Parise, and Travis Zajac all scored for the Devils.
#8: January 30, 2009
Clemmensen struggled in this Atlantic Division battle against the Penguins at the Prudential Center as he stopped 13 of 16 shots. However, he did enough to send the crowd home happy on a special night in which the organization honored longtime play-by-play commentator Mike “Doc” Emrick in a pre-game ceremony. Jamie Langenbrunner scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation and the game-winning goal four minutes into overtime to send the Devils to their eight straight win. It was the third consecutive multi-goal game for Langenbrunner and the second straight game in which he recorded the overtime winner. Clemmensen won his seventh in a row, the longest winning streak of his career.
#9: February 9, 2009
In a showdown at the Rock against the Rangers and Lundqvist, Clemmensen stopped every one of the 27 shots the Rangers had on goal. His best period came in the third when he stopped 11 shots to record his first shutout since March 26, 2004. He was brilliant on the penalty kill when he made five saves to help the Devils kill off all five New York power-plays. At the other end of the ice, Bobby Holik’s opening goal in the second period held up as the game-winner.
#10: February 13, 2009
Just four days later, Clemmensen did it again. After the Devils defeated the New York Islanders 4-2 midway through the week with Kevin Weekes between the pipes, Clemmensen continued his perfection in the crease. Against the league-leading Bruins, Clemmensen made 31 saves and each one was critical as New Jersey won by the slimmest of margins, 1-0, with Bryce Salvador scoring the goal. This was the most saves made by Clemmensen in a shutout as a Devil.
He would make his last home start with New Jersey two days later in a 6-5 victory over the San Jose Sharks. It would also turn out to be his final win as a Devil. After Clemmensen played his final game with Jersey’s Team on February 21 at the Islanders in a 4-0 defeat, Brodeur returned on February 26 in a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
During 2008-09, Clemmensen’s best season in the NHL, he had a record of 25-13-1 with a GAA of 2.39, a .917 save %, and the two aforementioned shutouts. Clemmensen was sent back to the Lowell Devils with the activation of Brodeur from the IR but he would not be in the AHL for long. After Weekes was injured in a 5-4 Devils overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on April 3, 2009, Clemmensen was recalled the following morning. He would remain Brodeur’s back-up for the remainder of the season and the playoffs before he signed with the Panthers in the offseason.
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.