Work in Sports
Toronto strikes first
Leafs take 1-0 series lead behind Tucker, Joseph
Posted: Friday April 28, 2000 03:24 AM
TORONTO (AP) -- Darcy Tucker is the first to admit his goals aren't always pretty.
As long as they count is what matters to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Thanks to a gritty second effort, Tucker scored 1:18 into the third period lifting the Leafs to a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils to open their second-round playoff series Thursday night.
"I go to the net hard," Tucker said. "I play the game as hard as I can each and every shift."
The same can be said for Tucker's linemates as the Maple Leafs third-line -- including by Wendel Clark and Dmitri Khristich -- stole the show.
"Our line is a hard-work line. We know our role," Tucker said. "Clarkie's a shooter, I'm a crasher and Khristich is a great playmaker. We've got a little bit of everything on our line."
Defenseman Dmitri Yushkevich also scored, and Curtis Joseph stopped 32 shots as the Leafs won their third straight playoff game.
Petr Sykora scored for the Devils, who lost for the first time in the playoffs after a four-game sweep of the Florida Panthers in the first round.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Toronto.
The Devils seemed to do everything right but win. They outshot the Maple Leafs 33-21 and also stifled Toronto's explosive top line, centered by Mats Sundin.
Unfortunately for the Devils, they came up empty.
"I thought our guys did a pretty good job," Devils coach Larry Robinson said. "I thought we had enough chances to win the game tonight, but we just didn't put our chances to good use."
After trading second-period goals, the Leafs got the go-ahead spark from Clark and Tucker.
Clark carried the puck over New Jersey's blue line, stopped and flipped a high pass to Tucker cutting up the middle. Tucker batted down the puck, split two New Jersey defensemen and got a shot off.
Devils goalie Martin Brodeur made the initial stop but couldn't control the rebound. Tucker got the puck and snapped it behind the sprawled goalie.
The third line didn't stop there.
Midway through the third period, Clark barreled into the New Jersey zone and rifled a shot off the goal post. That got the sellout crowd on its feet after the next whistle, everyone loudly cheering Clark who was pictured on the video scoreboard.
The line had two more scoring chances after that, including one in which Tucker was foiled by Brodeur on a breakaway with three minutes left.
Clark, in his third stint with the Maple Leafs, remains one of Toronto's most beloved athletes.
How many others would get a standing ovation because they hit the post?
"I was swearing at myself for not scoring," Clark said, laughing. "It's great when the crowd can get behind your team. It's a lot of fun playing home games when the crowd's into it like that."
Tucker and Clark earned the Devils' respect.
"They are pretty skilled players," Brodeur said. "We have to do against them what we did against the first line."
Added Sykora: "On every team, there's guys that work really hard, and Tucker's one of them."
The Leafs also got plenty of help from Joseph, who was both remarkable and lucky, as the Devils hit two goal posts.
Joseph kept Toronto in the game by stopping 23 shots through two periods, and sealed it by smothering Claude Lemieux's shot from point-blank range with 1:29 remaining.
Yushkevich opened the scoring 1:07 into the second when his point shot glanced off New Jersey's Sergei Nemchinov and bounced in through Brodeur's pads.
The Devils tied it less than five minutes later when Sykora blasted a rising shot into the top left corner.
It may be the first playoff meeting between the two teams, but the Maple Leafs staff did their best to try to fire up the crowd.
As Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" played, the Leafs' mascot Carlton The Bear was featured in a video touring major U.S. cities. The clip, broadcast on the center-ice scoreboard, ended abruptly with the mascot standing in a parking lot in front of a garbage dump, with the caption indicating it to be Newark, N.J.
All five of the Maple Leafs' playoff victories have come when the opposing team had more shots on goal.