Leafs down Devils in rough one

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

The holiday season is a time of exchanging gifts and good cheer, not uppercuts and cheap shots.

But obviously jolly St. Nick must have forgotten to deliver that message to the Maple Leafs and New JerseyDevils, who locked horns in an emotional affair last night in front of a throng of 19,314 at the Air Canada Centre.

The Leafs managed to wriggle out a 2-1 victory, but may have lost the services of Darcy Tucker for tonight's game in Pittsburgh against the Penguins in the process.

Tucker faced an automatic review from the NHL powers-that-be after being slapped with a five-minute match penalty for his actions during a melee with Devils pugilist Cam Janssen at the 11:16 mark of the second period.

The incident in question came when Tucker wiggled the helmet off Janssen's head, then beat the Devils player a couple of times with his own headgear during the spirited scrap.

Both players also received five-minute majors for fighting.

The Devils obviously were looking for retribution against Tucker after the Maple Leafs forward cracked his stick over the back of New Jersey goaltender MartinBrodeur earlier in the period.

Tucker, who was jostling with Devils defenceman Colin White at the time, appeared to slightly lose his balance before his stick came down precariously close to Brodeur's neck.

Imagine the thoughts going through the mind of Leafs coach Pat Quinn at the sight of Brodeur momentarily lying motionless on the ice. Keep in mind that Brodeur is expected to be Quinn's No. 1 goaltender when the two reunite with TeamCanada come February in Turin, where the Canadians will attempt to defend their Olympic gold medal.

Centre Jason Allison joined Tucker in the dressing room early in the third period after being struck in the left hand area by a shot. He was quickly ushered off for repairs.

The Leafs have a busy week ahead, one which could see them make significant strides in the Eastern Conference standings.

After meeting Pittsburgh tonight, they'll play host to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday before travelling to New Jersey for a New Year's eve rematch against the Devils on Saturday.

Although prominent names like Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer are no longer on the Devils roster, the two teams scratched and clawed like they did during their two rugged playoff series at the start of the decade.

John Madden, a local Toronto-area kid, put the Devils on top just 3:59 after the opening faceoff on a nifty tip of a Paul Martin shot.

After making brilliant stops on former Leaf Alex Mogily and Jay Pandolfo earlier in the game, Leafs goalie Ed Belfour had no chance on the play.

Mats Sundin levelled the score at 1-1 at 13:35 of the first, taking a perfect cross-ice feed from Tie Domi and redirecting the puck into the open net. Carlo Colaiacovo also assisted on the goal,Sundin's seventh of the season.

Less than three minutes later, Bryan McCabe put his team up 2-1 while the Leafs were enjoying a two-man advantage. It was a typical McCabe one-timer that whizzed past Brodeur before the Devils goalie had a chance to move.

Brodeur and Belfour then stole the show, swapping highlight reel saves the rest of the way.


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