Undermanned Leaf squad looks feeble

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.Y. -- Fictional Jersey mobster Tony Soprano could have given the Maple Leafs a few pointers on proper disposal of troublesome corpses.

The Leafs gave the Devils a second, third and fourth wind last night, losing 7-6 in a wild Meadowlands shootout against the New Jersey Devils.

Toronto blew a three-goal, third-period lead -- with the tying goal coming with just 38 seconds left in regulation -- and scored first in the shootout but still couldn't put the Devils away.

"You score six goals on Martin Brodeur and you think you'll take two points home," coach Paul Maurice said. "Lesson learned.

"Some nights you just stay out of the dressing room after a game. Nothing need be said."

If a French Canadian goaltender was going to get jeered last night, money was on Jean-Sebastien Aubin and not Brodeur. But the Leafs -- oddball defence pairings and all -- almost got both their injury-riddled blue line and No. 2 goalie off the hook to spoil the Devils' home opener.

"It's bittersweet, it feels like a loss," captain Mats Sundin said in the empty Leafs dressing room. "It's hard to say what happened. They just kept coming and started to find the net."

Brian Gionta had a natural hat trick for the Devils in the third, scoring at 6:29, 14:19 and 19:22, and then adding another in the shootout. East York's John Madden had two goals and scored the winner in the extra frame of the shootout after Matt Stajan gave the Leafs an early lead.

Toronto had put Brodeur on the ropes, spooking the Devils with an aggressive two-man forecheck. A number of Leafs forwards who have been under the gun or deprived of ice time, lit the board -- Stajan had two goals while Alexei Ponikarovsky and Jeff O'Neill added singles. Darcy Tucker scored his team-high fourth and Chad Kilger had his third.

"I loved Stajan's line (last night)," Maurice said of the centre and wingers O'Neill and Ponikarovsky.

Brodeur, who passed Terry Sawchuk for third place in NHL history with his 448th win, will not put this game in his file, giving up five goals in one period for the first time in seven years.

At the other end, Aubin looked like he would repeat his heroics of last March, when his 4-3 win here kick-started his NHL career and almost brought the Leafs back into the playoffs. But he not only had to fight through a Devils rally, but some mistakes by the revamped defence. An Ian White fumble in the slot, a Jay Harrison screen and a few miscues by the more experienced Toronto blue-liners hurt his cause.

"I felt good in the morning, good in warmup and good in the first period," said Aubin, who knows it might be a couple of weeks before he plays again.

At the other end, Devils coach Claude Julien never considered yanking Brodeur.

"You only make changes when you don't think your goalie is on his game. We didn't give him much help."


Videos

Photos