TORONTO - Waiting, perhaps not as patiently as it may seem on the outside for his own starting goaltender to return, Leafs coach Ron Wilson had to appreciate the good deed dealt to him by Devils counterpart Peter DeBoer on Wednesday.
Sure Martin Brodeur had to return to the net sometime, but given the success the Leafs have had against the future hall of famer in recent years, it was a perfect opener to back-to-back road dates for the visitors.
What followed was a Marty Party for the Leafs forwards who took advantage of a clearly rusty Brodeur and an indifferent defence in front of him. The veteran settled down eventually, but not before the Leafs had pumped five behind him in the first 14 shots he faced midway through the second period.
Guess DeBoer didn’t get the stats briefing (or didn’t care) that Brodeur likes to poop the bed against the Leafs. It was the fifth time time in his career that he’s given up five or more to the Leafs and he didn’t look sharp on just about each that beat him.
The loss for Brodeur, by the way, was the 352nd of his career, tying him with Gump Worsley and Curtis Joseph for the most in history.
Not only did Leafs forward Joey Crabb score the game’s opening goal in his first game since being called up from the Marlies, he did much of the advance work setting it up. Quick on the puck, Crabb carried it into the corner to create time and space before eventually setting up on Brodeur’s doorstep ... Crabb, who had just three goals in 48 games with the Leafs last season didn’t get his first until Game 25 but had been red-hot offensively in the AHL ... Concerns over the lousy Leafs penalty kill certainly weren’t eased as the Devils — with one of the poorer power-plays in the league the past couple of weeks — scored on their first two attempts. It’s an obvious Toronto trouble area that is showing no signs of going away ... Speaking of the Marlies, hard to imagine defenceman Jake Gardiner heading down so soon. What is as impressive as his skating ability is his poise and ability to see the open ice. His pass to set up the Mikhail Grabovski goal was all skill and instinct ... Reason number 1,450 Devils’ diva Ilya Kovalchuk will drive a team crazy: His bad giveaway that directly led to Joffrey Lupul’s third of the night ... Rough second period for Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn who was undressed by New Jersey’s David Clarkson for the Devils’ third goal. Later, Schenn was bloodied on the bridge of his nose after a scrap with Clarkson ... Schenn paid for it as well with just 10:01 minutes of ice time, the lowest of any Leaf player, forward or defence ... Tim Connolly (8-4) Tyler Bozak (5-2) and Grabovski (10-5) added up to a 63% winning faceoff rate for the Leafs.
That assist Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson got on the Grabovski goal? From our twitter pal, @Felixpotvin, it ties him in points with ex-Leaf Matt Stajan, who continues to struggle in Calgary. Also ties him in points with Matt Frattin, one of the reasons the youngster was sent down to the Marlies this week ... Another likely factor in the Frattin demotion: The AHL team is about to head out on lengthy road trip through the U.S. Southwest. Leafs management believe such journey are great motivational tools for young players anxious to return to the first-class travel of the NHL ... As deplorable as the Leafs’ defensive effort was early in this one, something was clearly said between periods as Toronto tightened up in the third ... A little this and that on the Lupul three-bagger: The previous Toronto hat trick vs. Devils was Wendel Clark in ’92 at Continental Airlines Arena ... Lupul scored five goals in 11 games in October, which fits the pattern for his eight seasons in the NHL. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his career average of 0.41 goals per game in October (31 goals in 76 games) is his highest for any calendar month. Welcome to November ... The previous Leafs road hat-trick in one period: Darryl Sittler — March 5, 1980 at Pittsburgh ... Lupul once had a four-goal game when he was in Anaheim. Happened in the playoffs.
With 10 goals and 10 assists through 12 games, Phil (The Thrill) Kessell remains both the leading goal and points scorer in the NHL (prior to Wednesday’s play). The previous time a Leaf has led the league in either goals or points this late in a season (and we know, we know, it’s only one month!) was Mats Sundin. Sundin was the co-leader in goals scored with 10 on Nov. 5 during the 1996-97 season and was the points leader with 20 points on Nov. 12 in the 1998-99 season ... Lupul, by the way, is now tied for third in goals with eight ... It’s fun while it’s lasting as the Leafs kept their pre-season goal of not losing two in a row alive ... He rarely seems capable of allowing less than three goals in a game, but Gustavsson was, at the least, solid. Huge save on Devils’ Nick Palmeiri was one of his best of the season ... John-Michael Liles is quietly adding ice time on the Leafs blueline. He was on for a team-high 31 shifts.