NEWARK, N.J. -- There was an eerie symmetry to the way Tuesday's game between the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers began in the first rematch of the two teams since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last spring.
The Rangers' old nemesis Adam Henrique, who scored the series-winning overtime goal that ended New York’s playoff run back in May, opened up scoring for the Devils with a top-shelf marker that paved the way for New Jersey to knock off their Atlantic Division rivals, 3-1, in the same building where the two clubs last crossed paths.
Entering Tuesday's game as losers in four of their past five, the Devils set the tone early. New Jersey put the Rangers on their heels, establishing an aggressive forecheck and building off the momentum of their penalty-killing and stellar goaltending from 40-year-old Martin Brodeur.
"It was a huge game for us. We knew we needed to come out hard and I thought we did a lot of good things as a team tonight," Clarkson said. "Marty played unbelievable, that save he made in the first and throughout the rest of the game, and I thought our penalty kill was fantastic tonight."
After an outstanding 30 goals last season, Clarkson is picking up where he left off, going to the high-traffic areas and scoring the dirty goals that made him one of the Devils' most productive forwards last season. With a three-point game Tuesday, Clarkson leads the Devils in scoring with 12 points (seven goals, five assists).
"The big test for him was to prove he wasn’t a 'flash in the pan' 30-goal guy, that he could do that on a consistent basis," New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer said, "and I think he’s proven that."
The gritty 28-year-old winger, who is set to become and unrestricted free agent this summer, is making a strong case for himself as a proven scoring threat. He may not be the most skilled or possess the most finesse, but his hard work and nose for the net has translated into the type of "puck luck" he often credits for his success.
"He creates his own luck," DeBoer said. "He's a guy that the puck follows him around. He has that innate ability that he’s in the right place at the right time. When you do it over and over again, it’s not an accident."
It wasn’t the goal-scorers who got credit from DeBoer following the team's second straight win, though. According to him, the team’s penalty-killers and goaltending were both "rock solid."
The Devils stopped the Rangers on all five power-play opportunities -- four of which came in the first period -- and were buoyed by Brodeur when the Rangers pressed back.
Brodeur turned away 24 shots to earn his fourth win of the season and stymied the Rangers on a couple of stunning saves. He made an acrobatic dive to smother the puck and stop Rangers defenseman Marc Staal in the first period. Brodeur then made a sharp glove save to rob Carl Hagelin driving the net in the third.
"It was fun. We got some big kills and I think that brought the energy level pretty high. It’s fun to play in front of fans like that," Brodeur said. "I wish it could be every single game but I know when we do play the Rangers, it’s a little different."