It’s safe to say the Toronto Maple Leafs
have seen enough of Martin Brodeur
and Zach Parise
Brodeur made a season-high 42 saves and Parise scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner with 48.3 seconds left in regulation, as the New Jersey Devils earned a 2-1 victory Saturday night and beat the Leafs at Air Canada Centre for the second time in five nights.
It was a case of déjà vu for Leafs fans: Brodeur stopped 41 shots and Parise scored twice in New Jersey’s 4-1 win on Tuesday, a game in which Toronto outshot New Jersey 42-25 and outplayed the Devils throughout.
The two points Saturday kept the Devils in first place in the Eastern Conference, one point in front of Montreal, which won at Los Angeles earlier in the day. The Devils visit the Bell Centre on Tuesday.
“They threw a lot of pucks at the net,” said Brodeur, who hadn’t needed to make 40 saves in a game all season prior to this week. “I think offensively it seems that they’re keeping it simple on us. Every time they have a chance they’re throwing (it on net) and going for rebounds.
“It’s kind of nice to pull two wins out of this building, especially at this time when a team like these guys are fighting for their lives. They’re tough games, but definitely nice to come on top.”
The sellout crowd erupted when Mats Sundin’s power-play goal with 6:16 remaining tied the game for Toronto. But though the Leafs dominated play, they were unable to get the go-ahead goal past Brodeur.
The loss dropped Toronto eight points out of a playoff spot with only 12 games left.
“It’s going to be hard for a lot of us to sleep tonight,” defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. “We let another one get away.”
New Jersey, on the other hand, reached the 40-win plateau for the 11th straight season. The Devils completed a four-game sweep of the Leafs, with Brodeur posting a 1.50 goals-against average and Parise scoring five times in the series.
“It was a great game. They played really well,” Parise said of the Maple Leafs. “They played like they’re fighting for a playoff spot. It was tough after we gave up that power-play goal. (We were) lucky to get that one with a minute left.”
Parise has five goals in his last three games, and he reached the 30-goal mark for the second straight season by showing his nose for the net. Vesa Toskala appeared to have covered the puck in the crease, but the Toronto goalie didn’t know where the puck was. Parise and New Jersey captain Jamie Langenbrunner drove to the crease, and Parise jammed the puck into the net for the go-ahead goal.
“I knew he didn’t have a hold of it and just to see it kind of sitting there, and everyone with their sticks up, I was kind of surprised to see it sitting there between his legs,” Parise said.
Although the capacity crowd reacted as though there should have been a whistle, in Devils coach Brent Sutter’s view the officials were correct for not blowing the play dead.
“I thought they made the right call. The puck’s available there; it’s a free puck in the crease,” Sutter said.
The Devils had a strong presence in front of Toskala on their first goal as well. With Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina off for holding midway through the first, Langenbrunner drove hard to the net with the puck and Parise ended up firing it past Toskala at 11:19.
Brodeur stopped all 15 Toronto shots in the first and was got some help when the Leafs hit three posts. He made 12 more saves in a scoreless second.
“We beat him a few times but couldn’t beat the post,” forward Alex Steen said.
Brodeur turned aside the first 36 shots he faced before Sundin finally got the Leafs on the board. Center John Madden, the Devils’ top penalty killer, had been whistled for tripping and 21 seconds into the man advantage Sundin ripped a slap shot from the left circle past Brodeur to tie the score. Sundin’s 31st of the season gave him seven goals and 14 points during an eight-game scoring streak.
On Saturday, though, it only set up more heartache for the Leafs in the end.
Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.