TORONTO – The Maple Leafs and Devils have been known to play each other close, and Tuesday night was no different.
The unlikely hero for New Jersey was defenseman Mark Fayne, whose shot from the blue line beat Jonas Gustavsson on a play the Leafs netminder wishes he could have back as the Devils skated away with a 4-3 overtime victory at the Air Canada Centre.
Fayne sent a shot towards Gustavsson that looked to be going wide with no traffic in front, but Gustavsson seemed to redirect the puck into his own net at 1:18 of the extra session.
Even though it was not the prettiest of tallies – it is one Fayne says is the biggest goal he has scored of the eight he has notched at the NHL level so far in his young career.
"Just get it to the net, that's kind of my mind set in overtime anyways -- just try to get it to the net and let the forwards get the rebounds -- but (I) got lucky with that one," Fayne said. "I think it was just knuckling. I thought it had bounced, but watching the replay it didn't look it. I think it hit his glove and snuck in behind him."
The winning goal came moments after Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner struck iron behind Martin Brodeur at the other end of the ice.
"It is too bad," Gustavsson said. "The guys worked really hard to get back into the game and then something like that happens. "Even if it skips, you can't let those in, no matter if it changed direction. That is not supposed to go in. No matter what, I should stop it."
The Devils looked to be on their way to wrapping things up in regulation as they maintained a 3-2 lead they held after 40 minutes. But Phil Kessel postponed the party.
Held silent for most of the game, Kessel managed to knock one past Brodeur with 44 seconds remaining in regulation. Tyler Bozak started the play by sweeping the puck into the crease from behind the goal line. Kessel soon collected it and buried his 31st goal of the season. Despite the loss, it was a big goal for the Leafs as it helped them earn a single point. Toronto is in eighth place and is in the thick of a battle for a playoff spot.
"No matter what was happening in the game, we hung in there," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "We stuck with it and it took 59-and-a-half minutes to tie the game. It's just disappointing what happened in over time. They scored essentially on a shot that was going wide."
Former Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky gave the Devils a 3-2 lead as he came out from the side boards, cut to the middle of the ice and found an opening between Gustavsson's legs for his 11th of the season at 18:11.
Ponikarovsky has been a playing well since being traded to the Devils from Carolina on Jan. 20. He now has 10 points in 13 games with New Jersey.
Clarke MacArthur had tied the game at 2 at 14:43. The Devils looked as though they were about to clear the zone, but Mikhail Grabovski was able to track the puck down and find Nikolai Kulemin. He quickly got the puck to MacArthur, who snapped it glove side past Brodeur for his 18th goal of the season.
Brodeur was sharp in the second period, stopping 12 shots, which allowed the Devils to take the 3-2 lead into the third. He ended up stopping 29 shots for his fourth straight victory.
"We battled really hard," Brodeur said. "We allowed few chances, we blocked a lot of shots. It was a good road game for us. We were able to pull it off, we got a lucky bounce on our side on the game winner. You don't like goalies to have bad luck goals (scored on them), that's for sure. It happens to everyone. It happened a lot to me this year. For us, it's all about winning and it took that (goal) for us to get the W."
The Devils held a one-goal lead after the first period.
New Jersey opened the scoring at 9:44, when Peter Sykora scored moments after Dion Phaneuf's penalty for tripping expired. Sykora had two chances on Gustavsson and didn't miss on the second, as he flipped a high backhander over the Leafs' goaltender for his 14th goal of the season. Adam Henrique set up the play with a lovely pass from behind the goal line. It was one of two points on the night for Henrique, who leads the race for the Calder Trophy with 41 points.
The Devils went up 2-0 under five minutes later, when David Clarkson scored his 23rd of the season on what initially seemed to be a harmless play. He skated down the right wing in the Leafs' zone and as Cody Franson and Matt Lombardi converged on him, he released a low shot that made its way through Gustavsson's legs.
Clarkson, a Toronto native, earned his 33rd point with the goal, setting a new career high. That makes it two memorable trips back home this season. In his last outing at the ACC, he scored two goals -- including the overtime winner.
"I grew up sitting in Maple Leaf Gardens cheering for them, so when I get to come home and actually play against them it's pretty special," said Clarkson. "They came back at the end, but I think we handled it well and in overtime, a lucky bounce goes our way. We will take it."
Toronto would cut the lead in half just 14 seconds later, when Tim Connolly tipped Franson's point shot past Brodeur. Connolly was parked in front of the Devils' net and reached out to deflect the puck into the net for his ninth of the season.