Devils right wing David Clarkson looked pretty silly when he was called for interference for grabbing onto Sean Avery's shirt and not letting go 10:10 into tonight's 5-0 win over the Dallas Stars.
Clarkson explained after the game that Avery yelled something at him when he skated by the Devils' bench earlier in the game and Clarkson thought that meant he wanted to fight. But Avery would not drop his gloves.
"He just skated by and said something on the bench and then I thought something was going to happen and it didn't happen," Clarkson said. "I go out there and play hard and if a guy says something to me, then I take care of it. I guess it didn't happen."
Clarkson tried to get Avery to fight again in the third period and, again, Avery would not drop his gloves. Clarkson ended up having to play without a stick -- he had dropped it -- but didn't get a penalty that time.
"I didn't want to take another penalty, but later in the game in the third I thought it was the right time and just followed him from his end all the way to mine and nothing happened," Clarkson said.
Avery did not speak to the media again after tonight's game.
No one blamed Clarkson for his behavior. In fact, his teammates and coach complimented him.
"Certain guys have certain responsibilities during the game and I think Clarkie took it upon himself to handle that situation and I think he did a great job," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "He gave him every opportunity to do something and he chose not to and Clarkie also scores a goal too. He did a good job of taking it to him instead of the other way."
"He was doing it for the right reason," Devils coach Brent Sutter said. "We did a good job killing (the penalty) and we knew we were going to be shorthanded. Clarkie did what he thought was right for the team."
Sutter was pleased with how his team reacted to Avery in general. A few players connected on some good hits -- Dainius Zubrus, Mike Mottau and Bryce Salvador -- but, other than Clarkson, no one went out of their way.
"I thought we did a good job," Sutter said. "Our focus was to win the game first and foremost. We didn't want it to become a distraction."
Although you might think that getting a shutout in Avery's face would be extra pleasing for Martin Brodeur, he did accompish a bit more tonight. His shutout was the 98th of his career-- five shy of Terry Sawchuk's all-time record. He also moved within nine wins of breaking Patrick Roy's all-time wins record.
"Marty has accomplished a lot," center John Madden said. "I don't think that (getting a shutout against Avery) ranks up there in his top 25 for that matter. Just getting a shutout and getting one step closer to history is what I'm thinking about. I'm sure Marty is thinking the same thing."
Brodeur did admit he was happy to keep Avery off the scoresheet. Actually, Avery has never scored a goal in 15 regular season games against the Devils. He did score three against Brodeur in the Rangers' five-game first-round playoff win over the Devils last spring, though.
The only fight of the night was between Salvador and Dallas right wing Brandon Crombeen in the third period. Crombeen was in the area when James Neal connected on a pretty good hit on Devils defenseman Paul Martin behind the New Jersey net and Salvador immediately grabbed Crombeen. Salvador won the fight and delivered a few more right hands after Crombeen dropped to the ice.
"I kind of sensed that things were running around a bit and it looked like (Crombeen) was running around a bit," Salvador said.
Defenseman Andy Greene had two assists tonight and was plus-2 for the game. He has three points (one goal, two assists) in the last three games after being a healthy scratch for the first three games of the season. The Devils also posted two shutouts in the three games he's played.
"He played really well again tonight," Sutter said.
Sutter was also happy with the way rookie Petr Vrana played in his second NHL game. Vrana did not have any points and played 16 shifts for 10:50 in ice time. Vrana played only 7:02 on Saturday in Washington.
"I thought he played well tonight," Sutter said. "I thought he made plays. He's a smart player. You've got to be an intelligent player to play the game today the way the game is being played and he's a very intelligent player. He makes plays. Some of the plays he made offensively were very good plays and his awareness in his own zone was very good, too."