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Madden returns, nets pair for Devils

Sunday, 01.20.2008 / 10:57 PM / Game of the Night

By Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

After missing the two previous games with an ankle injury, John Madden made a major impact in his return to the New Jersey lineup on Sunday as he netted a pair of goals to lead the Devils to a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Watch Madden's two goals vs. Toronto 700K 700K 
John Madden’s return couldn’t have come at a better time for the New Jersey Devils.

After all, the team needed someone to score a goal besides Travis Zajac. And Madden has been one of their most productive offensive players this season, in addition to his duties as the top-checking center.

Madden delivered a pair of goals after missing the previous two contests with a right ankle laceration, and Zajac tallied for the third straight game as the Devils snapped a two-game home losing streak Sunday with a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Prudential Center.

“My thoughts were that we would see how things were going,” Madden said. “I was a little winded, since I hadn't skated until Saturday. I felt a little something here and there, but nothing big. I got better as the game went on.”

Martin Brodeur made 34 saves and the Devils held off a comeback by the Leafs, bidding for their fourth consecutive victory. Trailing 3-0 early in the third after Madden’s second of the night, Darcy Tucker and Pavel Kubina scored 3:35 apart to draw Toronto close.

With the Leafs pressing for the tying goal, Brodeur made a pair of in-close saves on Alex Steen in the closing seconds ( 700K ), including a one-timer that appeared ticketed for the net.

“It hit the post and my pad at the same time,” Brodeur said.

Steen, who had a goal and assist in Toronto’s 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday, knew he was facing one of the game’s clutch performers.

“It’s just small margins,” Steen said. “He reads the play very well. The puck came to me and Marty got over just as quick.”

The victory lifted New Jersey into a three-way tie for first in the Atlantic Division along with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins and the surging Philadelphia Flyers, who won their 10th in 12 games Sunday against the Ottawa Senators.

Zajac and Madden staked the Devils to a 2-0 lead by scoring in a span of 2:19 just before the second intermission.

Karel Rachunek’s drive from the point was stopped by Toronto goalie Andrew Raycroft, but Zajac pounced on the rebound at 17:28 ( 700K ). Zajac, the only Devil to score in back-to-back home losses last week, picked up his 11th of the season and sixth in the last nine games.

With the final seconds of the period ticking down, Madden and Brian Gionta came in on a 2-on-1. Madden’s attempted feed to Gionta deflected in off the skates of Toronto defenseman Ian White with just 13 seconds remaining ( 700K ).

Madden continued to prove his value to the Devils 3:54 into the third ( 700K ) when Paul Martin’s shot deflected in off his skate as he was tied up in front with Nik Antropov.

“He’s great on faceoffs and in so many parts of the game,” Brodeur said. “We’re happy to have him back.”
 
Madden’s 14th of the season gave New Jersey what seemed like a comfortable three-goal lead, but Toronto answered quickly.

Tucker was awarded his sixth of the year just one minute after Madden’s goal on a similar play ( 700K ), as a Jiri Tlusty drive went in off his skate. Kubina cut the Leafs’ deficit to one when he collected his own rebound off a wraparound shot and wristed his fourth past Brodeur at 8:29 ( 700K ).

Toronto outshot New Jersey 13-5 in the third, but couldn’t beat Brodeur again.

“We played good hockey these last four games,” said Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin. “We played against one of the best teams in the conference. We had a lot of chances and, in the third period, we totally dominated them.”

It just wasn’t enough for Toronto, which stayed five points back of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.

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