The Leafs will have to shake off a truly disappointing finish to last night’s tilt with the Devils in a hurry, as they have to face the red hot Ottawa Senators back at the ACC tonight. Brian Elliott has won his last 9 starts, and the Sens haven’t lost since January 12th, stretching their current win streak to 11 with a win over Vancouver on Thursday night.
Toronto had a golden opportunity to sweep their home and home with the Devils, despite the midweek addition of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey’s lineup last night. Toronto played a very good 57 minutes of hockey, dominating the Devils in the 2nd period in particular. During that period, the Leafs netted 3 goals, including Rickard Wallin’s first goal as a Maple Leaf, and appeared to be in firm control of the contest. Unfortunately, a single Toronto breakdown late in the 3rd period led to a Dean McAmmond goal. In short order, the Leafs proceeded to crumble in their own zone, forcing Alexei Ponikarovsky to take a hooking penalty to prevent a sure goal. With Brodeur out of the net and Ilya Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston manning the points for the Devils, New Jersey moved the puck around the zone like it was on a string, and Travis Zajac ripped a one timer under the crossbar to beat Gustavsson with less than a minute to go in the game. Thirty seconds later, Jay Pandolfo took advantage of a bad rebound given up by the Monster and scored the game winning goal with less than 20 seconds to play.
The Leafs will also have to deal with the tragic death of GM Brian Burke’s son Brendan, who was killed in a car accident in Indiana late last night. Brendan, a student manager for the Miami University of Ohio Redhawks hockey team, was the subject of an article by John Buccigross that chronicled his difficult task of coming out as a homosexual to his father and other members of the hockey community.
JS Giguere will make his second start as a Leaf tonight, and Toronto will be hoping he can recreate his Monday night performance against the Devils, when he recorded his 33rd career shutout. Puck drops at 7:00 PM. Go Leafs!