NHL Game Summary - Toronto at New Jersey|
(Friday, February 5th)
Final Score: New Jersey 4, Toronto 3
Newark, NJ (Sports Network) - Jay Pandolfo's goal with 18.9 seconds remaining
in regulation capped a furious comeback that saw New Jersey score three times
in the final three minutes to post a thrilling 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple
Leafs in the back end of a home-and-home series at Prudential Center.
The game marked the New Jersey debut of Ilya Kovalchuk after the Devils
surprised the hockey world Thursday night, winning the Kovalchuk sweepstakes
in a move that enhances their status as Stanley Cup contenders.
There were a lot of rumors and speculation regarding possible destinations for
the impending free agent, but New Jersey pulled the trigger on a blockbuster
swap, sending serviceable defenseman Johnny Oduya, rookie forward Niclas
Bergfors, currently suspended prospect Patrice Cormier and a 2010 first-round
pick to Atlanta for the Thrashers' captain and defenseman Anssi Salmela. The
clubs will also exchange second-round picks in the upcoming draft.
Atlanta general manager Don Waddell dealt the Russian sniper when contract
negotiations reached an "impasse." Kovalchuk rejected multiple offers to stay
with the organization that selected him first overall in 2001, including a 12-
year, $101 million contract and a seven-year, $70 million deal.
Kovalchuk picked up two assists, including the secondary helper on Travis
Zajac's power-play goal that tied the game with 44 seconds to play and New
Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur on the bench.
"It wasn't my best game, but we got the two points," Kovalchuk said. "It
doesn't matter how, we got the two points in the bank and we're going to move
Dean McAmmond and Dainius Zubrus also tallied for the Devils, who were blanked
in Toronto on Tuesday for their eighth loss in 11 games. Brodeur made 17 saves
in the win.
Tomas Kaberle, Lee Stempniak and Rickard Wallin each lit the lamp for the
Maple Leafs, who have dropped seven of eight. Jonas Gustavsson allowed four
goals on 28 shots to take the loss.
"When you lose late in the game when you control the game pretty much the
whole game -- of course it's tough," Gustavsson. "You really want to win that
game. There's so many games, so we just have to move on. We can't think about
it, even if it's tough."
Trailing 3-1 and seemingly on their way to another defeat, New Jersey erupted
in the late stages of the contest.
Vladimir Zharkov dished to the middle of the ice to a streaking McAmmond, and
he ripped a backhander over the glove of Gustavsson with 3:04 left.
Moments later, Zubrus was hooked by Toronto forward Alexei Ponikarovsky, and
Zajac one-timed a McAmmond cross-ice pass inside the far post. Pandolfo then
buried the rebound of a Mike Mottau shot to complete the incredible comeback,
which mirrored the first meeting of the season between these two clubs last
Friday at the same venue.
"I just kind of went in the zone, and Jamie (Langenbrunner) made a great play
back to Mottau," Pandolfo said. "(Mottau) had a good shot, and I went to the
net for a rebound. I was in the right place at the right time."
The only difference last Friday was that it was the Maple Leafs rallying with
two goals in the final five minutes of the third period. New Jersey eventually
recovered to win that contest in overtime.
Kovalchuk paid immediate dividends, helping the Devils open the scoring with
6:40 left in the first period. The new addition dished to the slot, intending
to set up Zubrus, who fought through two Toronto players to a loose puck and
flipped a backhander over Gustavsson's right shoulder.
The Maple Leafs grabbed the lead after Kaberle and Stempniak both scored on
the power play, beating Brodeur on long-range shots.
Kaberle's one-timer from the left point went off Pandolfo's stick blade and
eluded the New Jersey goalie, tying the game at the 3:39 mark of the second
Later in the frame, Kovalchuk had a hand in another tally but for the wrong
squad, committing an interference penalty that resulted in a 2-1 lead for
Toronto, as Brodeur was beaten between the pads on a Stempniak slap shot at
Wallin capitalized on a broken play in the New Jersey zone to make it 3-1 with
3:51 remaining in the middle frame.
Zajac appeared in his 300th NHL game...Mottau and Langenbrunner each had
two assists...Phil Kessel collected two assists for the Maple Leafs...The
Devils improved to 19-9-0 as the host this year...Both clubs are in action
Saturday. Toronto returns home to face the streaking Senators, while New
Jersey will visit the Rangers.
02/05 23:20:57 ET