Work in Sports
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Tomas Kaberle scored his first career playoff goal with 1:35 left as the Toronto Maple Leafs evened their Eastern Conference semifinal series at two wins apiece with a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Kaberle beat Martin Brodeur with a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle to snap a 2-2 tie, 4:11 after Claude Lemieux scored the equalizer for New Jersey.
"We didn't sit back and go, 'Oh my goodness, let's just get it to overtime,'" Toronto center Darcy Tucker said. "We wanted to score the next goal. Wendel Clark said on the bench, 'Let's go get the winner here before overtime.'" "I was happy, especially since there were (95) seconds left in the period," Kaberle said after his 24th career playoff game. "I just fired it. It's a very big moment."
Lemieux's goal actually was kicked in by Maple Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph, who made 34 saves and got help from the right goalpost twice in the third period.
"He's the No. 1 goaltender in the world," Tucker said. "He can win games for you and he stole one for us tonight."
Jonas Hoglund and Tucker also scored for the Leafs, who reclaimed home-ice advantage and host Game Five on Saturday.
"Going back home 2-2 is big," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said.
"Being down 3-1 is not fun. And the odds are you don't come back from it."
The Devils had a sellout crowd of 19,040 at Continental Airlines Arena for the first time in four postseason games and fell to 3-1.
"Tonight I thought we had some passengers, some guys who weren't playing the way they are capable," New Jersey coach Larry Robinson said. "It was because of Marty we kept it close. But I think they think that we're playing at home, the other team isn't going to show up, and we paid the price for it."
Toronto suffered a 5-1 loss on Monday and trailed 1-0 before Hoglund scored his third playoff goal midway through the first period, splitting a pair of defenders and putting a snap shot through Brodeur's pads from the right circle.
"I hadn't scored yet in this series so it was big for us and big for me personally," Hoglund said. "They got the lead and we tied it pretty quick after."
It was the Leafs' first goal of the first period in the postseason and the first by a member of their top line of Hoglund, Mats Sundin and Steve Thomas.
Tucker helped Toronto to its first lead after the first period with 3:48 left when he picked up a loose puck in the low slot and backhanded it over a sprawled Brodeur.
"We hadn't gotten any pressure on him in the first three games," Sundin said. "That's our strength, to play in the other team's end. Today was the first time we've seen that in the series."
The Devils opened the scoring on the power play at 1:41 when rookie Scott Gomez buried a rebound of Lemieux's shot. It was the second goal in as many games for Gomez, a finalist for the Calder Trophy who nearly was benched for Game Two.
New Jersey came out hitting in the second period and threw 13 shots at Joseph, who was up to the task. He made one of his best saves of the game with 2:11 left when he kicked away a tricky redirection by Jason Arnott from the low left circle.
"We had a couple of unbelievable opportuntiies that Cujo either was lucky stopping or made unbelievable saves," Robinson said.
"They were just glorious chances to put the game away."
The Devils hit the post twice in the first eight minutes of the third. A centering pass from the left corner deflected off Kaberle's right skate and off the post with 15:46 to play, and rookie Brian Rafalski's snap shot from the high slot did the same three minutes later.
"We had all the opportunities in the world to win," Devils defenseman Ken Daneyko said. "We just didn't do a couple of little things and were a little bit sloppy on a couple of goals.
I thought we dominated the play for the most part again."
Joseph stopped 10 of 11 shots in the third, turning away a pair of point-blank chances by Patrik Elias with less than seven minutes left.
"That's why you're there, I guess try and make the big save at the right time," Joseph said.
He seemed unbeatable until he stopped Lemieux's slap shot off a 2-on-1 and kicked the puck into the net with the back of his right skate while falling to his knees in search of the rebound.
"I saw his eyes light up and he was going to jab it in, so I thought I'd just go into a little butterfly and stop his stick, and unfortunately it went off my heel," Joseph said. "I didn't feel it at all."
The goal was Lemieux's 31st in the playoffs as a Devil, tying John MacLean's team record.
"I said since the first game, if you score and don't win, it's no fun and it's not the objective," said Lemieux, the 1995 Conn Smythe Trophy winner with New Jersey. "You're excited when you tie it up, but then you've got to finish it off. We didn't get it done."
"I think (we) felt after they scored that goal, they're just going to lay down and die, they are not going to battle back," Robinson said. "That's not the way it works."
The Devils kept up the attack after tying it, but the Leafs stemmed the tide.
Kaberle ended up with the puck on an odd-man rush and peeled back at the left boards before backhanding a shot on net. Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer cleared the puck up the boards, but Kaberle intercepted and slapped a shot through traffic and past Brodeur.
Tucker claimed he tipped it.
"Yeah, it was deflected," he said. "But we're not going to talk about it. If it's on the scoresheet tomorrow, it's on the scoresheet tomorrow."