NHL Game Summary - New Jersey at Toronto
(Saturday, February 4th)
Final Score: Toronto 4, New Jersey 2
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Alexei Ponikarovsky scored two first-period goals to help Toronto build a big early lead, and the Maple Leafs held on for a 4-2 victory over New Jersey at Air Canada Centre.
Ed Belfour made 36 saves, including a dazzling stop of Viktor Kozlov on a penalty shot in the second period, to help Toronto to win for only the second time in its last 12 games (2-8-2).
Tomas Kaberle added a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs, while Nik Antropov and Jason Allison each contributed a pair of helpers in the winning effort.
Brian Gionta and John Madden had third-period tallies for the Devils, who received an off night from Martin Brodeur and had a two-game win streak halted.
Brodeur was coming off a 3-0 blanking of Carolina on Friday and had posted five shutouts over his last 15 starts. However, the star netminder issued three goals on the first five shots he saw as Toronto busted out to a quick and commanding lead.
The first came just 33 seconds into the contest. Brodeur stopped Ponikarovsky's initial attempt on an odd-man rush, but the young Russian lifted the rebound over the prone goaltender.
Kaberle made it a two-goal advantage midway through the frame when he rocketed home an Allison feed from the left point with Toronto on a power play.
Just a little over a minute later, Ponikarovsky tipped in a cross-ice send from Allison into an open left side of the net for a 3-0 cushion.
"We knew what we were in for with the Devils," said Ponikarovsky. "Tonight we came out with focus and worked hard in the first (period)."
Ponikarovsky nearly had his first career hat trick before the period came to a close, when he got a wrister past Brodeur but the shot caromed off the left post.
"Didn't go the way I wanted to shoot it," said Ponikarovsky of the near miss. "Maybe next time."
Brodeur ended with just 15 saves on the night.
The game remained 3-0 at the second intermission, with New Jersey failing to take advantage of two great scoring chances in the middle session.
Kozlov was awarded a penalty shot 7:44 into the period after being hooked from behind by Toronto's Staffan Kronwall. However, Belfour made a sparkling diving stop with his right arm on the backhanded try.
Later on, Erik Rasmussen came in alone on Belfour but flipped the puck over the net on the breakaway attempt.
The Devils finally broke through early in the third period, netting a pair of goals with the stanza barely a minute old.
With Ponikarovsky in the box for a holding call, Jamie Langenbrunner delivered a blast from the left circle that was redirected by Gionta 28 seconds in. Madden made it 3-2 35 seconds afterward when he corralled a loose puck and skated up the right side before beating Belfour glove-side.
Belfour shook off the two quick scores and kept New Jersey off the board the rest of the way, despite the Devils owning a 13-5 shot advantage over the final 20 minutes.
Chad Kilger clinched the win with an empty-net goal with 45 seconds on the clock.
Toronto ended a three-game losing streak at home. The Leafs' last win at the Air Canada Centre came on January 2, a 3-2 overtime decision over Pittsburgh...Toronto has won all three meetings between the teams this season and is 6-1-2 (one loss, two ties) in its last nine games with the Devils...The Maple Leafs improved to 9-2 in the second of back-to-back games during the year. Toronto lost at Washington on Friday...Leafs center Mats Sundin had a five-game point streak snapped.
02/05 02:04:38 ET