Nothing about the New York Rangers worries the New Jersey Devils this season.
Maybe that’s why the Rangers seem to be considering bringing Devils nemesis Sean Avery back to Broadway. After a year in which the Rangers dominated the Devils in the regular season and playoffs, the tide has turned.
Scott Clemmensen made 27 saves in posting his first NHL shutout in nearly five years, and Zach Parise scored twice to lift the Devils to a 3-0 victory Monday night over the Rangers, who have dropped a season-high five straight.
Last season, the Devils went 1-4-3 against the Rangers in the regular season and were eliminated from the playoffs by New York in five games.
“It was like, ‘Oh my God,’ the Rangers were coming in and everyone was all uptight,” Parise said. “This year we’re more concerned about how we’re playing.”
The Devils rebounded from a lacklustre 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Saturday that gave them consecutive home defeats. They beat the Rangers for the third straight time after dropping the first two of this season series.
Clemmensen, who has 23 wins in place of injured regular Martin Brodeur, wasn’t severely tested as he earned his third career shutout and first in 58 games – dating to March 26, 2004, at Atlanta.
“It’s been a long time,” he said. “Obviously I haven’t played that many games … but it was nice to get.”
Clemmensen admitted he thought about the shutout in the third period, but was more concerned with not letting the Rangers erase New Jersey’s slim lead.
“Most important is the way we won,” Clemmensen said. “Hopefully we carry that into next game because it’s easy to get up and get excited about the Rangers.”
His time in the net could be ending soon because Brodeur skated Monday and is close to returning from a biceps tendon injury.
Clemmensen held off the Rangers during five fruitless power plays, including two that were shortened by New York penalties. The Rangers are 0-4-1 in their past five games and are closer to being on the wrong side of the playoff chase than they are to the Devils, who lead them by eight points in the Atlantic Division.
“When you get that many power-play opportunities in the first, you’ve got to generate more,” forward Scott Gomez said. “We had to get out of the period with at least one and we didn’t do that.”
Bobby Holik had the first goal, and Parise scored his 32nd this season into an empty net for the Devils.
Henrik Lundqvist stopped 28 Devils shots after sitting out Friday night’s 10-2 loss at Dallas with the flu.
“Right now, we’re in a tough spot,” Lundqvist said. “We need everybody to step up, starting with me. I have to play the best that I can.”
The Devils took a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the second period when a pair of former Rangers teamed up. Brendan Shanahan, playing against New York for the first time since he signed with New Jersey last month, fed a pass in front that was shoved between Lundqvist’s pads by Holik.
“When you’ve had a couple of tough losses and you fall behind, it’s not for lack of effort but it’s just that you press,” Shanahan said. “That’s why it was important to get the lead and try to jump on them and stay on them.”
Just 22 seconds after Holik’s tiebreaking goal, New York’s Brandon Dubinsky was sent off for holding to give New Jersey its second power play. Parise needed just over a minute to make it count.
Jamie Langenbrunner kept the puck in New York’s zone by stopping it on the blue line, and fired a shot at Lundqvist. The puck hit traffic in front, and Travis Zajac shoved it to his left to Parise, who has three goals in three games and seven in 10. Parise is tied for third in the NHL in goals.
The Rangers, who failed on their first four advantages – all handed out in the first period – entered the final period down by two goals for the second straight game after generating only 16 total shots in the first two periods.
New York was trying to bounce back from Friday’s rout when backup goalie Steve Valiquette was beaten for six goals in the third period. It was the first time the Rangers allowed 10 goals in 16 years.
The bigger problem against the Devils, as has been for much of the season, was the Rangers’ lack of offence. They have scored only five times during their skid and are averaging under two goals over the past 12 games.
“We’ve got to score goals,” Gomez said. “It starts with me. I’m looked upon to create offence and score and I’m just not doing my job. We’ve got to find a way, whatever it takes.”
Notes: Devils D Colin White (sore hand) returned after sitting out Saturday against Los Angeles. … Rangers D Dmitri Kalinin missed his third straight game due to a back injury.