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Behind a stellar comeback by Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils have increased their Atlantic Division lead and drawn closer to the top of the Eastern Conference. Timely scoring has helped the surging Toronto Maple Leafs keep moving toward a playoff spot.
Likely to start again Tuesday in Toronto, Brodeur would be trying to lead the Devils to a fourth straight victory when they face a Maple Leafs team that's on a season-high four-game winning streak.
After missing 50 games due to elbow surgery, Brodeur has been anything but rusty since returning Feb. 26, recording two shutouts and winning all three starts. On Sunday, the four-time Vezina Trophy winner earned his 100th career shutout in a 3-0 win over Philadelphia, leaving him three shy of tying Terry Sawchuk's NHL record.
"It's a big number, it's kind of hard to believe," said Brodeur, who last had consecutive shutouts Oct. 26 and 28, 2006. "You get to different numbers and at times you think, 'OK, it's just another one.' When you get to a round number, it looks more impressive."
Brodeur's 547th victory, four shy of Patrick Roy's NHL mark, allowed the Devils (41-19-3) to tie Washington for second in the East. New Jersey leads the Atlantic by nine points over the Flyers, and trails conference-leading Boston by eight.
Brodeur is 9-2-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average, but one of his worst performances this season came against the Leafs in a 6-5 home shootout loss Oct. 29. However, he's 4-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA in his last five starts against Toronto and has won two straight at Air Canada Centre.
The Devils have made things easier for Brodeur in his first three games back, scoring 14 times in that span and assuring themselves of a 17th consecutive season with at least a .500 record.
Zach Parise has led the way in the last three contests with three goals and four assists, while Jamie Langenbrunner scored for the second time in three games Sunday.
New Jersey added an experienced defenseman two days before the trade deadline Monday, acquiring Niclas Havelid from Atlanta for rookie defenseman Anssi Salmela.
Havelid, 35, has two goals and 13 assists in 63 games this season, his ninth in the NHL.
The Maple Leafs (25-26-12) went beyond regulation for a sixth straight time Saturday night and pushed their win streak to four with a 4-3 overtime victory in Ottawa. Toronto is 4-0-2 in that stretch, winning twice in shootouts and twice in overtime.
The Leafs blew a 2-0 lead after the first period Saturday and trailed 3-2 early in the third, but Pavel Kubina got the tying goal with 4:12 remaining and scored 33 seconds into overtime.
"We have nothing to save it for," winger Jamal Mayers said. "We leave it on the line. We're a young team, we're hungry and we never give up."
Toronto still has work to do if it wants to make the playoffs. The Leafs are 11th in the East, eight points out of the final postseason berth.
Veteran Curtis Joseph started in net for the Leafs against the Senators, but Toronto might turn back to Vesa Toskala on Tuesday. Toskala has two shootout victories against New Jersey this season and has won his last three starts, although he's mostly struggled this season.
Toskala, who has allowed a league-high 163 goals, gave up seven while going 3-0-1 in his last four games, but he couldn't hold to a two-goal lead against the New York Islanders on Thursday night. The NHL's worst team scored twice in the final 9:31 before the Maple Leafs recovered with two goals in the shootout to win 5-4.
Toskala is 2-3-0 with a 3.13 GAA in his career against the Devils, who are 3-1-1 in their last five trips to Toronto. Four of those games were decided by one goal.
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