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Schwab mops up former team

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
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New Jersey (Ticker) -- Corey Schwab gave the Toronto Maple Leafs another example of why they never should have let him slip away.

Schwab stopped 17 shots for his fifth career shutout and rookie Jiri Bicek scored his first goal in nearly two years as the New Jersey Devils opened a home-and-home weekend set with a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Making his first start since suffering a 1-0 loss to Toronto on December 7, Schwab made four saves in the first period, seven in the second and six in the third for his first shutout since March 23, when he blanked Buffalo as a member of the Maple Leafs.

"I was thinking toward the end of the third, 'Is this going to be the opposite of the last game?'", Schwab said. "We got the power play and I was hoping we'd get one there and give us a little bit of breathing room so it wouldn't be so tight. We didn't get it, but eventually, we did."

"Every time he's been in there this year, he's played well for us," Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "We have confidence in him when he's in there. He played great, he was motivated against his ex-teammates, I guess."

The 32-year-old Schwab, who was drafted by the Devils 180 picks after Martin Brodeur in 1990, was signed by New Jersey as a free agent during the offseason after spending 2001-02 with Toronto.

"I don't have any hard feelings towards them," Schwab said. "I think the win is the most important thing. It's definitely nice to be able to get a shutout, but if I could string a couple of wins together and show that when I do get an opportunity to play, it'll be important coming down the stretch."

"It's a little extra incentive for a player sometimes, to play against his ex-team," New Jersey coach Pat Burns said. "I know for him, it's a big satisfaction, being so fresh from the Leafs."

Despite facing a small amount of shots, Schwab made several strong saves to even his record at 2-2-0.

After stopping Jonas Hoglund from the doorstep early in the second period, Schwab denied Tom Fitzgerald from alone in front two minutes into the third to preserve New Jersey's one-goal advantage.

Bicek scored his first goal since February 19, 2001 and Patrik Elias added his eighth of the season for the Devils, who rebounded from a 2-1 loss to Florida on New Year's Day.

Bicek, who has appeared in just 17 NHL contests, snapped a scoreless tie midway through the second period on a play that had the Maple Leafs shaking their heads.

With Darcy Tucker and Devils defenseman Scott Stevens wrestling in the New Jersey zone, Elias and Bicek broke up ice on an odd-man rush. As former Devil Alexander Mogilny caught up to the play, Elias dropped a pass to Bicek, who fired a slap shot from just above the left faceoff circle that goaltender Ed Belfour got in front of.

But the puck trickled behind the Toronto goalie and into the net for Bicek's first tally of the season and the second of his career, both coming against Toronto.

"I saw it was kind of a 2-on-2, so I cut across," Bicek said.

"Patrik just left it there for me and I shot it. I think it hit him up near the shoulder and bounced off. It was lucky, but it was good. If you shoot it, good things happen."

"There should have been a whistle," Tucker said. "The guy (Stevens) was punching me in the head. What can I do, I was trying to get up. I don't even know how the goal was scored. It could have been a case where we were waiting for a whistle."

Bicek would like to continue his luck against Toronto on Saturday but doesn't want to jinx himself.

"I can't say that," Bicek laughed. "If I say that, then for sure I'm not going to score. I'd rather just leave it there and be surprised and happy than be disappointed if I say I'm going to score and then not."

Mired in a drought that has seen him score just one goal in 19 games, Elias secured the victory for New Jersey with 89 seconds remaining.

While on a 2-on-1 with Sergei Brylin, Elias attempted a pass that was blocked by defenseman Tomas Kaberle. The puck came right back to Elias, who slid it between Belfour's pads to give the Devils a 2-0 cushion.

"I'm glad I got a lucky bounce there," Elias said. "I tried to fake a pass and the guy went down. I still tried to get it through to Sergei and the puck just bounced back to me and I just whacked at it."

Belfour made 23 saves for the Leafs, who lost in regulation for the first time in eight games.
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