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Clarkson's OT goal lifts Devils past Leafs

by Neil Acharya /
TORONTO -- The New Jersey Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday evening, and it was the hometown kid -- David Clarkson -- providing the heroics with his second of two goals on the night.

Midway through the overtime period, Dainius Zubrus came into the Leafs' zone on what seemed to be a harmless rush but wheeled around at the half boards and sent a cross-ice pass to an unmarked Clarkson, who was heading to the net.  Clarkson made no mistake, beating James Reimer for his ninth of the season.

"It's a win we needed. When you come home, you get that feeling," said Clarkson, who ended what had been a seven-game scoring drought. "I don't know what it is, but I love playing back here in Toronto. Coming back to my family, it's one of those games where you get that little bit of jump in your step. I had a lot of tickets tonight, a lot of people here. It went pretty quiet in here when that went in. I had no idea it went in myself. I was just waiting for someone else to celebrate first, but it's a great feeling. Zubrus made a great pass and Marty (Brodeur) played unbelievable for us tonight."  

In fact, Clarkson could have ended the game late in the third period had it not been for a terrific save by Reimer.

Martin Brodeur had one of his better outings of the season, stopping 29 shots for the Devils for his first victory since Nov. 23 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's a win," said Brodeur, who gave up three goals in the first 8:17 on Friday in Minnesota before being replaced in his last outing. "I've played a couple of good games. We needed to have a good performance. It's been a rough ride for us on the road lately, and we’ve been on the road a lot also, so it's kind of nice to finish it off on a good note."

The Leafs, who were playing the second of back-to-back games, headed into the third period down 2-1, but a goal early in the third by first-year forward Matt Frattin tied the game. It was a good solo effort by the youngster, playing the puck off the boards and then outmuscling New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson before firing a shot to the far side just over the pad of Brodeur. Frattin has points in back to back games for the first time in his brief 25-game career.

NHL scoring leader Phil Kessel banged in a loose puck in the crease at 11:29 of the second period to get the Leafs on the board as they cut a 2-0 deficit in half.  It was his 17th goal of the season. The goal came on the Leafs' 14th shot, the first time they took the lead in that department all night. Luke Schenn started the play by bringing the puck to the Devils' blue line and making a quick pass to his left, finding Joffrey Lupul and narrowly avoiding being hit in the process. Lupul raced to towards Brodeur and from the side of the net flipped the puck into the blue paint. A well-covered Kessel managed to get his stick on the puck to make it 2-1.

Brodeur came up big in the first minute of the second, stoning Philippe Dupuis as he broke in alone shorthanded, one of 13 stops in the second period. Meanwhile, his squad only managed only five shots.

New Jersey scored on their first two chances with the man advantage in the opening period -- not bad for a team that entered Tuesday's game ranked 27th in the NHL on the power play.

With defenseman John-Michael Liles in the box for high sticking at 3:09, the Devils struck with just six seconds left in the man advantage. Ilya Kovalchuk unleashed a laser beam from the top of the faceoff circle to the right of the Leafs' net and beat Reimer to the short side. Petr Sykora drew the first assist and rookie Adam Henrique extended his point streak to six games with the second assist.
Just before the midpoint of the period, the Devils went up 2-0 with Tim Connolly off for slashing. Clarkson scored his eighth, sweeping the puck past a helpless Reimer after Devils captain Zach Parise found Clarkson wide open at the top of the crease. Patrik Elias also assisted on the play.

"It's nice for him," Brodeur said of Clarkson's performance in his native city. "Clarkie is a really fun guy to be around. Games in Toronto mean a lot to him and so for him to get the game-winner in overtime, and to get another goal, means a lot to him. He played well, he got bumped a few times, got hit hard, but he got up and competed really well."

So did the rest of his teammates, who finally got things going on the power play.

"It looked nice tonight didn't it?" Parise said. "Something clicked. We've been watching a lot of video on what we can do better. The last few games, it's been good. Tonight we were able to capitalize. We've had those exact same plays before and they just haven't gone in."

Schenn pointed to Toronto's inability to kill off the first two penalties one of the key factors in the outcome of the games.

"It's not the end result we wanted," he said. "We got off to a pretty bad start and our penalty kill wasn't great off the start and it put us behind the 8-ball, but we fought hard and I don't think the guys left anything in the tank. We earned the one point and we will take it, but it's always better to have two."

The Leafs managed just one shot on goal through the first 12:30 until Kessel won a footrace to the net and went to the forehand on Brodeur. The 39-year-old goaltender came up with a spectacular pad save to keep the Devils up 2-0. Toronto could only muster four shots through the first 20 minutes.

"It (to face so few shots in the first) was kind of hard especially since it was a bounce-back game for me after the last two starts, but I was faced with a breakaway and I was happy to make that save," Brodeur said. "He stayed with it and knocked it out of midair and I got a little lucky finally, so I was kind of happy about that."
New Jersey continues its road trip Thursday at Ottawa, while Toronto visits Washington on Friday.
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