EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Another controversial play in the final minute of the third period has altered the course of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After generating little offense in the third period, the Maple Leafs fired the puck into the Devils' zone and Darcy Tucker gained control behind the net. Shayne Corson drove along the goal line and got tangled up with New Jersey defenseman Colin White, who shoved the Toronto winger into goaltender Martin Brodeur.
With Brodeur pinned inside the cage, Tucker passed to Kaberle, who flipped a wrist shot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle that eluded the helpess goalie.
The Devils immediately protested, arguing that Corson interfered with Brodeur. But referee Bill McCreary let the goal stand, ruling Corson was forced into Brodeur by White.
"I thought it should count right from the start," Corson said. "I was going to the net and Colin White cross-checked me into his goalie. There's nothing I can do. I tried my best to get out of the crease, but you can't do much when a guy his size gives you a shove into the goalie. Billy's an experienced referee. He made the call, saw the play and made the right call."
"It went behind the net and that's the last time I saw the puck," said Brodeur. "I didn't even see it go in the net. I didn't see anybody take it out of the net. I was just surprised that McCreary made a call like that that quickly."
A huge underdog, seventh-seeded Toronto can eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions at home on Monday night.
"We were in the same situation as last year and lost this game," said Kaberle, whose team dropped Games Five and Six to the Devils in last year's conference semifinals. "Now, we got the big game at home."
These bitter rivals were meeting for the first time since Maple Leafs enforcer Tie Domi was suspended for the rest of the postseason for his vicious elbow on Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer in the final seconds of Game Four.
Niedermayer sat out with a concussion and New Jersey struggled offensively for nearly 33 minutes. But the Devils erased a 2-0 deficit on second-period goals by Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott and carried the play throughout the third.
Curtis Joseph stopped 24 shots, including 15 in a lopsided second period. He helped Toronto move within one win of its second conference finals appearance in three years.
"We wanted to go out there and do the best we could as a team," Tucker said. "They've got a great hockey club. Sometimes you can play your best game and still not win in the playoffs. We got a couple of lucky breaks tonight, which won the hockey game for us."
While they insisted they would avenge Domi's hit on the scoreboard, the Devils came out undisciplined. Scott Stevens and Scott Gomez were penalized for roughing 8:13 into the opening period, giving Toronto a two-man advantage for a full two minutes.
Defenseman Bryan McCabe cashed in at 9:30, firing a blast from the left circle by Brodeur's glove side for his first goal of the series and second of the playoffs.
"At the beginning, I had a feeling that we were going to do something that would cost us, which we did," said New Jersey left wing Patrik Elias. "We took a penalty there. We tried to do something that's not important in this game. What is important is that we've got to win a hockey game. We lost a little bit of focus right there."
The Leafs had an 8-2 edge in shots in the first period, then extended the lead 4:33 into the second on a goal by another defenseman.
Yanic Perreault skated with the puck out of the right corner and slid it to Cory Cross, who fought off Turner Stevenson's check, curled in front of the net and put a wrist shot past Brodeur for his second playoff goal.
The Devils appeared to strike back 85 seconds later when Elias beat Joseph from the low slot. But McCreary immediately waved off the goal and penalized Arnott for interfering with Joseph, although replays showed Arnott was checked into the goalie by McCabe.
"We all want our goaltenders protected and we all want our players to go to the net. So sometimes referees will call them and sometimes they won't," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "You just hope that they make the right call at the right time."
The Devils grabbed the momentum on the ensuing power play as Joseph was forced to make big stops on John Madden and Sykora. They finally got on the board with 7:17 to go in the period as Sykora pulled down Perreault, enabling Elias to gain control in the right circle. He centered back to Sykora, who shoveled a shot from the slot into the top left corner of the net.
It was just the second goal of the series for the Devils' top line of Arnott, Elias and Sykora.
Joseph denied Alexander Mogilny on a breakaway just over a minute later, but McCabe was penalized for cross-checking at 15:46 and Corson followed him to the box 58 seconds later for the same infraction.
Arnott scored six seconds into the two-man advantage, chipping a loose puck over Joseph's stick at the left goalpost after Joseph stopped Sykora's shot from above the right circle.
"All three of us, I think that's the best we've played so far (in the playoffs). And it was because we all have different roles on the line and we were doing our job," Elias said.
Both teams had seven shots in the third period, when Joseph stopped Gomez on an early stuff attempt. The Devils' best chance to score down the stretch came with just over six minutes left, when Arnott flubbed a shot in the left circle on a 2-on-1 with Elias.
It's the second time in as many years the Devils have trailed three games to two in a series. They overcame a 3-1 deficit against Philadelphia to win the conference finals.