He played that way, too.
Clemmensen, a member of the New Jersey Devils for parts of five seasons before signing with Florida in the offseason, made an impressive return to his former home on Friday night when he turned aside 26 shots to lead the Panthers to a 4-2 victory.
He was all smiles in the visitors locker room after earning the his fifth victory of the season and beating his former mentor, Martin Brodeur.
"I respect (Brodeur) and that organization so much, so it does mean a lot for me to come in here and beat them," Clemmensen said. "And I don't mean that in a negative sense at all. I have so much respect for them; it's a big win not only for me but for the team as well."
That's an understatement. The Panthers entered the game having lost nine of their last 10 games, including four straight (0-2-2) on the road. But that all came to an end behind an effective defensive game plan that limited the Devils' quality scoring chances. When the home team did generate some opportunities, Clemmensen, the only goalie other than Brodeur ever to win 25 games in a season for the Devils, was there.
Panthers coach Peter DeBoer, whose team improved to 12-14-6, thought the victory was special on a few fronts.
"It's a huge confidence-booster for many reasons," DeBoer said. "One, getting a win and the two points are critical. Two, getting the win for 'Clem' on his return back was important and, three, holding the lead in the third period and making a team pay was also good to see."
Brodeur, who'll have to wait another day for his record-setting career shutout No. 104, entered the game with a career mark of 33-12-7 against the Panthers with a 1.98 goals-against average and five shutouts. He finished with 18 saves. He'll likely get another chance to make history on Saturday when the Devils host the Philadelphia Flyers.
Any hopes the home crowd had of seeing a record-setting shutout by Brodeur ended only 3:53 into the game when Panthers defenseman Jordan Leopold ripped a shot from between the circles that caught the top right corner past Brodeur's left glove.
With the division rival Flyers coming to Newark on Saturday, a meeting with the struggling Panthers is the type of game a team could look past. But the Devils said that wasn't the case.
"We didn't overlook them," defenseman Andy Greene said. "We come to play every night and never look ahead to another game. We just didn't play well in all three zones or for a full 60 minutes. Florida was aggressive and took it to us."
Second-year forward Michael Frolik snapped a five-game pointless streak with a pair of goals. His second, off a nifty breakaway 2:23 into the third, cooled down the Devils and their fans after New Jersey had cut a 3-0 deficit to 3-2 just 78 seconds earlier when Dean McAmmond's attempted pass from the left-wing corner deflected off the stick of Florida defenseman Keith Ballard into the net for his first of the season.
"I thought it was Frolik's best game of the year," DeBoer said. "Our young guys gave us good minutes out there, especially when Dom Moore went down (with an abdominal injury in the second period). We had to shorten the bench, but the guys stuck with it."
The three-goal lead made things a lot easier for Clemmensen, who was named the game's third star
"Anytime you can jump out to a lead like that, it takes the pressure off you as a goalie," said Clemmensen, who was pulled after allowing two quick goals to Washington in a 6-2 loss eight days earlier. "A three-goal lead was a credit to the guys going to the net and getting deflections in close on Marty. I was very impressed with everyone's effort, particularly our defense tonight."
After Leopold put Florida ahead with the only goal of the first period, the Panthers opened a 3-0 lead early in the second on a pair of goals in a span of 1:05. Frolik scored a power-play goal off a deflection of a shot from the left point by Ballard at 2:24, and Shawn Matthias extended the lead when he deflected a shot past a screened Brodeur at 3:29.
Brian Rolston pared the deficit to 3-1 at 7:16 on the Devils first shot of the period when he gathered a backhand feed from Patrik Elias in the left circle and ripped a shot that deflected off the inside of Clemmensen's left pad and over the goal line.
Clemmensen shut the door on the Devils the remainder of the period, stopping the next 10 shots, including two off the stick of the Devils' big gun, Zach Parise, who hasn't scored in six games. Rob Niedermayer and Jay Pandolfo broke out 2-on-1 while shorthanded with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second, but Pandolfo fanned on his attempt from the right circle.
When Clemmensen's name was announced during warmups, the sixth-year goalie was given a nice ovation, something he certainly took to heart.
"The fans here supported me so well in the past and I really appreciate them and I feel like they were really behind me all the way," Clemmensen said. "They still are and I'll never forget that. They meant a lot to me last year and they still do now.
"Stepping out here and hearing the same organ playing the same song, the DJ playing the same song and seeing the same people and all the little things associated with this arena really put me in a comfort zone," he said. "I played a lot of games in this building and it was weird to be on the other end of the ice."
That doesn't mean he didn't get a little extra enjoyment from beating his old team.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say (the victory) isn't up there, but that's just because I respect them so much," Clemmensen said. "It was nice to come back here and play in this building. But overall, it's just nice to get a big win for our team."
|Jordan Leopold (4) ASST: Nathan Horton (18), Stephen Weiss (12)|
1 - 0 FLA
|PPG - Michael Frolik (8) ASST: Keith Ballard (9), Stephen Weiss (13)|
2 - 0 FLA
|Shawn Matthias (2) ASST: Steve Reinprecht (14), Radek Dvorak (5)|
3 - 0 FLA
|Brian Rolston (11) ASST: Patrik Elias (9), Jamie Langenbrunner (21)|
3 - 1 FLA
|Dean McAmmond (1) ASST: Ilkka Pikkarainen (2)|
3 - 2 FLA
|Michael Frolik (9) ASST: Nathan Horton (19), Bryan Allen (4)|
4 - 2 FLA
|Bryce Salvador Hooking against Rostislav Olesz|
|Dmitry Kulikov Hooking against Vladimir Zharkov|
|Shawn Matthias Too many men/ice - bench|
|Vladimir Zharkov Hooking against Bryan McCabe|