The Devils’ dramatic run to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals?

Lucky.

David Clarkson’s breakout 30-goal season?

A fluke.

If the Devils look like a motivated team during a five-game winning streak that has moved them atop the Eastern Conference, it’s because they are.

By completing a home-and-home weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 3-1 victory tonight at Consol Energy Center, they stand two points clear of the Boston Bruins and three ahead of the Pens.

“I think it’s a testament to our character. I think a lot of people thought maybe our run last year was accidental,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “I think you’re seeing the depth of this team and how they play.

“It was a real gutsy effort. We had to dig deep. We didn’t have a lot of juice left in the tank, but we found a way.”
Clarkson scored two more goals, giving him nine in 12 games. He didn’t score his ninth goal last season until the 26th game.

“He’s a good hockey player. It’s not an accident,” DeBoer said. “I think he’s a little bit of a reflection of our team. People thought maybe last year was an accident for him or a fluke. He’s showing that it isn’t.”

No one can possible think Clarkson will flirt with 40 goals this season, but he is on a 36-goal pace with a shortened 48-game schedule.

And he is motivated.

“One-hundred percent,” Clarkson said forcefully. “Do I think people doubted me scoring 30 goals? Yes, I do. People doubted us. People were calling us out every round and weren’t taking us (seriously). They thought other teams were going to win. It’s a fun thing when you’re that team. Maybe they’re not thinking you’re going to win but you prove them wrong.”