Work in Sports
'We let them back in'
New Jersey having a devil of a time with Leafs
Posted: Friday May 05, 2000 08:25 PM
TORONTO (AP) -- Kicking themselves for allowing the Toronto Maple Leafs back into their second-round playoff series, the New Jersey Devils are determined to prove they're the better team.
How to accomplish that remains the question.
Despite outplaying, outdefending and outshooting the Maple Leafs in the first four games of their best-of-seven series, the Devils are locked in a 2-2 tie going into Saturday's Game 5 at Toronto.
Much of that has to do with Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph, who has been spectacular. But the Devils believe they have themselves to blame.
"We let them back in the series," Devils forward Randy McKay said following practice on Friday. McKay was referring to Game 4, when the Devils blew a 1-0 lead and eventually lost on a late goal.
"We've got to learn how to get stronger as a team. And that last game was a classic example of kicking a team when they're down, and we let them back out of it," McKay said. "Now we're going to have to start our work back over again."
Leafs coach Patt Quinn admits his team is "pretty lucky" to be in this position, having regained home-ice advantage.
As long as Joseph continues to stop 30-plus shots a night, the Leafs believe they can pull out victories.
"We've been able to find ways to win all year," Leafs forward Steve Thomas said. "We've got game-breakers in this dressing room. When we're down a goal or whatever, I see it in people. They want to be that guy that makes a difference out there."
While Toronto's top line of Thomas, Mats Sundin and Jonas Hoglund has been limited to just one goal in the series, Toronto has been getting clutch performances from the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Wendel Clark, Darcy Tucker and Dmitri Yushkevich.
"Any more than any other team I've ever been on, this team has that individual sense that each guy wants to compete and make a bit of a difference," Thomas said.
The Devils should get a boost as forward Sergei Brylin will be back in the lineup Saturday, his first game since suffering a knee injury in New Jersey's playoff opener against Florida.
Taking over for Steve Kelly, Brylin will be reunited with his second-line teammates McKay and Bobby Holik.
"I think Sergei will give us another dimension on the line," Holik said.
Added coach Larry Robinson: "Hopefully he'll be able to give us offensive depth and help that line out as well."
The Devils suffered a scare in practice Friday when a Petr Sykora shot found its way through Martin Brodeur's padding, hitting the goalie in the ribs. Brodeur doubled over in pain and eventually fell to his knees. He remained in that position for about a minute before getting up and completing practice.
Brodeur left the dressing room through a side door and did not meet with reporters.
Sykora felt a little sheepish afterwards.
"I don't think it was a very hard shot. It just hit him in a bad spot," Sykora said. "I guess Marty's going to be a little sore tonight. You really don't want to take your number one goalie down. ... Seriously, it wasn't that bad. It looked bad, but it wasn't that bad."
The Leafs might juggle their lineup. Clark didn't practice on Friday and Quinn said the forward was given the day off as a precaution.