Leafs get a late jump

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Maple Leafs weren't about to wait for that glistening ball to drop in nearby Times Square to usher in the new year last night.

They were too busy igniting fireworks of their own at the Continental Airlines Arena.

Down 2-1 to the New Jersey Devils early in the second period, the Leafs pumped four goals in a span of 6:40 behind Canadian Olympian Martin Brodeur en route to an impressive 6-3 victory.

Despite still missing five regulars to injury -- Eric Lindros, Nik Antropov, Jason Allison, Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo -- the Leafs enter 2006 on a roll, stringing together five wins heading into tomorrow night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Air Canada Centre.

Mats Sundin, Mariusz Czerkawski, Darcy Tucker, Tomas Kaberle, Jeff O'Neill and John Pohl scored for the Leafs, offsetting a second career hat trick for the Devils' Scott Gomez.

"We haven't scored in spurts like that much this year," Sundin said. "The good teams manage to do that. Tonight, it was a good sign that the scoring was so spread out."

Pohl, who scored his first NHL goal in the third period with a mid-air swat, is sending the puck to his father, Jim, a high-school principal in Red Wing, Minn.

"I was nervous because I didn't know if it would count. I thought my stick might be too high," said Pohl, who was recently called up from the Marlies because of the rash of sidelined players. "But Mats said it was good.

"To come against one of the world's best goalies -- maybe one of the best of all time -- makes it that much more special."

Pohl was asked about the Leafs' offensive onslaught, that featured five goals on their first 12 shots of the game.

"Most weren't his fault," Pohl said of Brodeur. "We took advantage of our opportunities. There were plenty of tips and deflections."

The Devils, at one point, seemed to be in control of the game, taking a 2-1 lead at 1:27 of the second period when Gomez scored on a penalty shot, awarded after his breakaway attempt was impeded by Ken Klee.

But a three-goal outburst in 140 seconds turned a 2-1 New Jersey advantage into a 4-2 Toronto lead, shocking the pathetically small crowd.

Czerkawski and Tucker scored rebound goals just 21 seconds apart, before O'Neill potted the Leafs' fourth goal on a beautiful cross-ice feed from Kyle Wellwood.

Kaberle then upped the gap to 5-2 before the second intermission.

"We have simplified our game and things seem to be working for us now," Kaberle said. "It's a good time to get on a streak like this.

"Guys might be hurt but you have to give those players credit who have stepped in. They are really picking up the slack."


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