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New Year's Eve Party in the Swamp

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- An embarrassing loss to the Ottawa Senators got the Toronto Maple Leafs' attention.

The Maple Leafs beat the New Jersey Devils 6-3 on Saturday, giving Toronto a season-best, five-game winning streak.

The streak started after an 8-2 blowout on Dec. 17 at the hands of their regional archrivals from Ottawa.

"You have that kind of thing to discuss among the group,'' coach Pat Quinn said. "We said it wasn't very pretty and we have to do some things better. We have been getting better and maybe that had quite a bit to do with catching everybody's attention.''

Mariusz Czerkawski and Darcy Tucker scored 21 seconds apart in the second period to spark the Maple Leafs. Mats Sundin, Jeff O'Neill, Tomas Kaberle and John Pohl also scored for Toronto.

New Jersey's Scott Gomez had his second career hat trick, two nights after scoring twice in a loss at Pittsburgh.

The Devils have lost five of their last six and 11 of 14. They are 2-5 since president and general manager Lou Lamoriello stepped behind the bench as interim coach following Larry Robinson's resignation.

Lamoriello indicated the slump could lead to trades.

"I'm the person who has to find those answers and those solutions,'' Lamoriello said. "We have some players who are not performing up to expectations. That's not acceptable.''

After Gomez beat Ed Belfour for his first career penalty-shot goal at 1:27 of the second period, Toronto broke the game open with four straight goals in the period.

Czerkawski tied it 2-2 at 7:26, backhanding Clarke Wilm's rebound past Martin Brodeur while falling. Tucker then one-timed a pass from O'Neill to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead. O'Neill, scoring for only the second time in 15 games, upped Toronto's lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 9:46.

Kaberle got the final Toronto goal of the period at 14:06.

"We just did simple things,'' Kaberle said. "They weren't huge plays. We made one or two passes and it was in the net.''

In the third, Pohl got his first NHL goal, on a power play at 4:35.

Gomez got his third at 7:48 to close out the scoring.

"We're embarrassed right now,'' Gomez said. "We've let the fans down. People pay good money and they've always had pride in the Devils. We just haven't done the job.''

In the first period, Gomez and Sundin exchanged goals.

Gomez gave the Devils an early lead at 3:44, tipped Zach Parise's pass from the left wing past Belfour.

Sundin pulled Toronto even with a short-handed effort at 9:02. Sundin picked up the puck in his own end and skated to the right circle to beat Brodeur.

Notes: The Devils are still awaiting the return of Patrik Elias, who has missed the entire season because of Hepatitis A. He resumed practising with the team this week but speculation he could return for the Toronto game proved premature. ... The successful penalty shot was the first for the Devils since Elias beat Damian Rhodes of Atlanta on March 10, 2000.

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