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Leafs Unable To Close

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
Asif Hossain

February 5, 2010
Prudential Center
Newark, NJ
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Alexei Ponikarovsky's hooking penalty at 17:38 of the third period to help save a game tying goal, with his team leading 3-2, started to give Leafs fans everywhere that sinking feeling.

Travis Zajac confirmed the worst fears of Toronto fans with a power play goal. Jay Pandolfo then finished off the Leafs 25 seconds later, by which point their once 3-1 lead heading late into third period was all for naught. The Devils won 4-3 on Ilya Kovalchuk's debut night.

38 Times this season the Leafs gave up the opening goal.
7 Goals scored by the Leafs on Broduer in two games this season.
28:08 Ice-time for Dion Phaneuf, nearly four minutes more than the previous game.
5 Points for Phil Kessel in last three games (3G, 2A).
6 Points for Kovalchuk (2G, 4A) vs. Leafs in three games with the Thrashers and Devils this season.
1st Star
Jay Pandolfo
G A P +/- Shots
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2nd Star
Travis Zajac
G A P +/- Shots
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3rd Star
Ilya Kovalchuk
G A P +/- Shots
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Kovalchuk begrudgingly gets the nod here despite being nearly invisible for large chunks of the game.

Early on each time the new Devils' acquisition touched the puck, the Newark crowd roared in approval.  No cheer was louder in the first period than when he assisted on Dainius Zubrus' opening goal. Then Kovalchuk disappeared, only to turn on the engines in the third, quarterbacking Zajac's power play equalizer as part of a two point night.

The Rickard Wallin, Fredrik Sjostrom and Nikolai Kulemin line impressed for most of the night despite finishing with a combined -4 rating.

The trio were relentless on the forecheck through the first two periods, creating headaches for the Devils' blueliners and Brodeur. Wallin scored his first NHL goal in 2,135 days when he capitalized on a Jamie Langenbrunner giveaway to snap the puck past Brodeur.  

Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson just can't catch a break against the Devils. Despite making great saves in his first outing in New Jersery on January 29 before being pulled, and being alert for most of the night in this loss, his numbers are disappointing.

In two starts so far against the Devils this season 'The Monster' is 0-1 with an .851 SV%, surrendering seven goals for a GAA of 4.61.

Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle on losing the lead:

"We played 57 minutes, exactly how we wanted. And then after a mistake, and another mistake we just (fell) back and we can't do that. Obviously New Jersey (has) a good team and they'll keep attacking to the last second and that was a good example tonight."

Saturday February 6 vs. Senators
  7 PM ET (CBC, AM640)

Game Notes:
The fourth of six games between the Ontario rivals will take place at ACC on Saturday night.

Senators hold a 2-1 season series lead over the Leafs but every game has ended by a one goal margin, with the Leafs winning the last meeting 3-2 on December 14.

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