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Clemmensen, up from Albany, makes 25 saves

1/21/2004

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Devils rookie goalie Scott Clemmensen's first
NHL start couldn't have gone much easier. So easy, he considers
most nights in the AHL to be far more challenging.

Of course, Clemmensen doesn't get to face the Pittsburgh Penguins in the minors, either.

Clemmensen shut out Pittsburgh on 25 shots and Turner Stevenson
had two goals and an assist in New Jersey's 3-0 victory over the
Penguins on Tuesday night.

Clemmensen, a surprise starter called up from Albany
(AHL), withstood a brief flurry of shots early in the first period
to become the second Devils backup to shut out the Penguins
in as many games in Pittsburgh. Corey Schwab, who injured a groin
Monday in practice and didn't dress, beat them 2-0 on Dec. 27.

"I only had four shots in the whole third period, and I'm used
to seeing a lot more shots -- a lot more quality shots [in the
AHL]," Clemmensen said. "So it was a little easier [than playing
in the AHL]. They had a lot of scoring chances, but they didn't get
a lot of good wood on them and I was able to survive."

Clemmensen is the first NHL goalie to get a shutout in his first
career start since Michael Leighton of the Blackhawks on Jan. 8,
2003, against Phoenix. Clemmensen played briefly in two games with
New Jersey in the 2001-02 season; he was 5-12-4 with a mediocre
3.07 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage with Albany
this season.

Devils regular goalie Martin Brodeur is threatening the NHL
record of 15 shutouts in a season -- he has nine in 41 games -- but has
allowed five goals while going 2-1 against Pittsburgh. The
Devils are 3-0-1 when Brodeur doesn't start, allowing only two
goals.

"As many games as he does play, maybe something in us makes us
tighten up [when he doesn't]," forward Jeff Friesen said. "Maybe
psychologically the other team thinks it's an advantage he's not
playing."

Despite Schwab's injury, Devils coach Pat Burns decided to give
Brodeur his planned night off despite Clemmensen's glaring lack of
experience. The Devils decided Monday to play Clemmensen but
didn't reveal their starter until just before game time.

"We just made the decision [to go] with the best goalie down
there, and let's go for it," Burns said. "It worked out."

The Penguins, losing their sixth straight home game, pressured
Clemmensen throughout a first period in which they outshot the
Devils 12-4 -- a rare occurrence for a team that has been outshot in
39 of 48 games this season. Seeing so many shots early may have
helped 26-year-old Clemmensen settle down, and he faced only 13
more shots the rest of the game.

"It made me feel comfortable, kind of like playing for the
River Rats," Clemmensen said. "It got me into the game right
away. It wasn't a positive thing for the team, but it was for me."

It wasn't for the Penguins, either.

"We probably missed the net 15 times and then refused to shoot
another dozen times," coach Eddie Olczyk said. "We had our
chances, but the kid in net played well."

No doubt it helped Clemmensen that he played most of the game
with the lead. Stevenson made it 1-0 midway through the first,
directing Jeff Friesen's pass into a wide-open net after goalie
Jean-Sebastien Aubin slid to his right to defend against Friesen.

Friesen scored his ninth of the season early in the second with
a virtual one-man rush; he grabbed the puck along the left wing
boards, carried it behind the net, lost it briefly, then tapped it
back onto his stick. After emerging on the other side of the net,
he beat Aubin from along the edge of the right circle.

Stevenson made it 3-0 late in the second, putting a shot between
Aubin's pads after a Penguins giveaway in their own end.

Stevenson had only three goals in 24 games before scoring in
each of the first two periods against the team he torments the
most. Stevenson has 10 of his 65 NHL goals in 39 career games
against Pittsburgh.

The Penguins are one loss short of tying the club record for
consecutive home losses of seven, set Oct. 8-29, 1983. They
have been outscored 29-3 during their losing streak.

Game notes
New Jersey is 12-4-7 on the road. ... The Penguins have lost their last four. ... New Jersey is 3-2-1 since star D Scott Stevens was lost indefinitely with a concussion. ... The Devils are 3-1-1 against Pittsburgh.