Scott Clemmensen is used to playing the role of backup goaltender. But he's also shown he can carry a team when called upon. He did exactly that for the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Clemmensen stopped 39 shots and gave the Panthers an opportunity to win their fourth in five games, which they did when Bryan McCabe scored 40 seconds into overtime to beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena.
"Our goalie was our best player. He gave us a chance to hang around, and we found a way to pop one," Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.
Clemmensen spent parts of five seasons backing up Martin Brodeur in New Jersey, which meant a lot of sitting around and watching. However, when Brodeur missed a large chunk of last season due to a torn biceps, Clemmensen not only stepped in, he won 25 games and had the Devils leading the Atlantic Division by the time Brodeur returned.
His impressive performance earned Clemmensen a free-agent contract with the Panthers, but he's mostly sat and watched again as Tomas Vokoun got on a recent hot streak that included three shutouts. Clemmensen, by contrast, carried a goals-against average of over 5 into Friday's action and was eager to prove what he could do.
"Hopefully, tonight was a harbinger for my game getting to where I really want it to be," he said. "We had to weather a little bit there in the first. They're a great team. We had to battle so hard all night, and we really stuck with it."
Pavel Datsyuk's power-play goal gave the Red Wings the lead late in the second period, but Stephen Weiss scored midway through the third for the Panthers to force overtime.
McCabe made short work of the extra period when he one-timed a feed from Weiss past Chris Osgood, giving Florida a 9-9-2 record after a 2-7-1 start.
"We all knew we weren't playing good for the first two periods," center Nathan Horton said. "We tried to come out in the third and put on some pressure."
The Panthers were lucky they didn't fall behind in the first, when the Red Wings owned an 11-2 advantage in shots. Clemmensen turned them all aside and continued shutting out Detroit until the latter stages of the second, when Weiss was sent off for tripping. Datsyuk converted his own rebound with 2:02 left to give the Wings a 1-0 lead, but it was the only time they would get a puck past the Panthers netminder.
"We had more than enough chances," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't have much puck luck."
Florida didn't have any against Osgood, either, as he carried a shutout into the third. But Weiss evened the score at 8:13 when Horton threaded the needle on a cross-crease pass and Weiss banged his seventh of the season into a half-empty net.
The Wings outshot the Panthers 14-5 in the third and had their chances to prevent the game from reaching overtime, but Clemmensen repeatedly denied them.
"We just couldn't get the puck in, couldn't score," Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We battled hard. The puck just wouldn't go in."
Material from wire services was used in this report