Janssen pays the piper

Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak and New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen fight during first period action...

Toronto Maple Leafs' Wade Belak and New Jersey Devils' Cam Janssen fight during first period action on Tuesday. (Sun Media/David Lucas)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:46 AM ET

Cam Janssen wanted to say sorry.

Having dealt with the sea of cameras, microphones and notepads in the New Jersey Devils dressing room just minutes earlier, Toronto's Public Enemy No. 1 quietly made his way to the back entrance of the Maple Leafs dressing room hoping to deliver his message in person to healing defenceman Tomas Kaberle.

After waiting for about a minute, Janssen was informed by Leafs forward Travis Green that Kaberle had just left.

Please pass on my regards to him, Janssen told Green.

And with that, Janssen headed down the hallway toward the Devils bus, disappearing quietly into the night.

Maybe now, finally, the Kaberle-Janssen affair finally could be put to bed.

On a night the Maple Leafs pulled into a three-way tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1 victory over the Devils, all eyes were on Janssen, the so-called villain whose late hit on Kaberle on March 2 left the Toronto defenceman with a concussion.

Loudly jeered by the capacity crowd at the Air Canada Centre when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift, Janssen's next appearance quickly resulted in a 95-second scrap with Leafs enforcer Wade Belak.

Janssen expected it all. The jeers. The fight. Everything.

"I knew the boo birds would come out," Janssen said. "And I knew I would have to take care of business early on with Belak. He's a big tough kid who does a good job.

"I knew I had to pay the piper. I knew I had to pay my dues. I knew he wanted a piece of me. And I was not about to back down. I was not going to hide.

"Hey, if none of this had happened, we'd have fought anyway. I respect the hell out of him."

As the bout progressed, the crowd began shouting Belak's name over and over again.

"When I heard the Belak chant, it even got me going a little bit," Janssen chuckled.

"I just wish I could have distracted (the Leafs) a bit more. But this was an important game for them and they stayed the course. I've got a lot of respect for those guys. I give them props."

Once the bout had ended, the focus inside the energy-filled rink turned from the penalty box to the scoreboard. In that regard, the Leafs took care of business there, too.

After Kyle Wellwood opened the scoring in the first, Nik Antropov widened the gap to 2-0 early in the third with his 16th goal of the season, tying a career high.

Travis Zajac brought the visitors to within one just 40 seconds later but that was as close as the Devils would get.

The victory, Toronto's fourth consecutive triumph on home ice, gave the Leafs 80 points, pulling them alongside the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadiens. The New York Islanders are just one point behind.

Given the fact that Kaberle hopes to return Friday against the Sabres in Buffalo, there is reason for optimism inside the Toronto dressing room.

"We have been turning it around a bit at home," said goalie Andrew Raycroft, who was helped out three times by his goal posts. "The two points are huge and we want to keep moving up."

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REPORT CARD

B - Forwards: Did manage to generate some good scoring chances against Marty Brodeur, who kept his team in the game at times.

B Defence: Pavel Kubina was ornery, ploughing Devils forwards out of Andrew Raycroft's doorstep on a regular basis.

B - Goaltending: Raycroft looked shaky at times but played well enough for the win. He did have some help from his posts, however.


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