EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Eastern Conference semifinals started just like the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. And the Toronto Maple Leafs could not have scripted it any better.
Joseph, who started the conference quarterfinals against Ottawa with a shutout streak of 176 minutes, 51 seconds, turned aside 32 shots for his 12th career whitewash. He lowered his already microscopic goals-against average to 0.58 while improving his save percentage to .981.
With Joseph at the top of his game, Toronto has opened the postseason with five straight wins. And for the second consecutive series, the Maple Leafs have wrested home-ice advantage, this time from the top-seeded Devils.
"It felt a lot like (the Ottawa series)," Thomas said. "The first 10 minutes, we wanted to set the tone of the game. Right from the drop of the puck, we played well defensively."
Toronto killed all eight power plays and has not allowed a goal in 24 chances in the postseason. The defending Stanley Cup champion Devils, who had the league's top-ranked power play during the season, are just 2-for-32 in the playoffs.
"Commitment, courage, dropping in front of shots. (It's) all those things. That's really the story," Joseph said.
"Special teams lost us the game," said New Jersey right wing Randy McKay. "Our power play didn't bring it again and they pretty much scored two goals on their power play. One was a couple of seconds after, so they capitalized and we didn't."
For most of the night, the Devils were like the malfunctioning scoreboard over center ice -- out of sync. Part of that could be attributed to the Maple Leafs, who made Joseph's job easier by blocking 26 shots.
"The guys did a great job of blocking lanes to the net and getting in shooting lanes. That really helps my job," Joseph said. "Bryan McCabe was excellent with his stick, Tomas Kaberle, all the defense. They were all excellent."
"We knew they do that. On the power play, (Shayne) Corson likes to block shots, (Dmitry) Yushkevich, (Danny) Markov," said New Jersey defenseman Sean O'Donnell. "You saw tonight, we had some success when we were able to kind of pump-fake and get them down. We had some chances. It just seemed to bounce a little bit. We had them down a couple of times, scrambling, but we just couldn't get it past Joseph. He was pretty good tonight."
New Jersey repeatedly seemed one pass or one step away from seriously testing Joseph.
"The chances were there, we just didn't put them in or we missed the net. We had a lot of close calls," McKay said. "We've just got to keep doing it, keep going to the net and eventually, we'll beat him."
Moments after Martin Brodeur made a diving stop to rob Kaberle on a rebound, Toronto scored the first goal of the series at 3:16 of the second period.
Just seven seconds after Jason Arnott's interference penalty expired, Sergei Berezin carried down the slot but had the puck knocked away by O'Donnell. It came right into the slot to Antropov, who put a wrist shot by Brodeur's stick side and inside the left goalpost for his second playoff goal.
The Devils heard a smattering of boos minutes later after failing to generate much offense on their fourth power play of the night. A tripping penalty on Bobby Holik gave the Maple Leafs their third advantage, and they proved more opportunistic than their hosts.
Toronto captain Mats Sundin snapped a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that deflected in front of the net to Thomas at the bottom of the right circle. He was able to flip the bad-angle shot over Brodeur, who was diving across, for his first postseason goal at 9:02.
Late in the second period, the Devils generated sustained pressure after Toronto defenseman Cory Cross lost his stick, but they could not get off a good shot.
With just under two minutes to go, Holik got to a rebound in the slot but had his shot deflected before reaching the net. Holik boiled over with 1:21 remaining after weaving through the slot and sliding a pass to John Madden, who failed to connect as he was cross-checked by Sundin. As Sundin was led to the penalty box, Holik barked in frustration.
"There were a lot of pucks just lying beside the net, just going by, just hitting a stick, just something. We can't get too frustrated," McKay said. "It seems like we're pressing a little too much. Hopefully we'll get an early one next game and relax a bit."
For awhile, this contest resembled Game Six of last year's series, when Toronto was held to six shots. The Leafs had just one over the opening 13 1/2 minutes but set a physical tone as Tie Domi twice leveled 5-10 sparkplug Sergei Brylin.
As expected, Devils captain Scott Stevens was another target after administering a series of crushing open-ice hits in last year's conference semifinals. Corson took a run at Stevens in the first minute, Darcy Tucker left his feet to deliver a hit behind the net midway through the period and Thomas hit his former teammate a couple of minutes later.
New Jersey's best chances in the first period came less than a minute apart during a late power play. Joseph made a lunging glove stop on Stevens' blast through traffic with 3:36 left, then got his left arm on Brian Rafalski's drive from the blue line.
"We tried to push them outside, give up those shots from outside," Yushkevich said. "You can't stop all the shots. I think they got great scoring chances, they just couldn't capitalize on some of them. On some of them, Cujo was great."
Brodeur made 15 saves as the Devils held Toronto to one shot in the third period.
Game Two is Saturday night in New Jersey.