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Kaberle Gives Belfour His 400th

Tuesday, 01.04.2003 / 10:20 PM / News
Toronto Maple Leafs
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Kaberle Gives Belfour His 400th
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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils could be seeing a lot more of each other later this month.

Defenceman Tomas Kaberle scored 2:44 into overtime as the Maple Leafs squandered another two-goal lead before pulling out a 3-2 victory over the Devils in a possible playoff preview.

The loss sliced New Jersey's lead in the Atlantic Division to one point over Philadelphia with three games to play. If the Devils lose the top spot in the division, they would slip to fourth place in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup with Toronto.

"You won't want to start thinking about the playoffs yet," Devils center Scott Gomez said. "We still have three more games and we have to win them all. When the playoffs come, the playoffs come. Right now, our concern is playing Boston (on Thursday)."

New Jersey rallied from a 2-0 deficit and nearly won it in the opening minute of overtime, but Gomez was stuffed by Ed Belfour.

"I tried to deke, and that could have been the game right there," Gomez said. "But he has my number."

Moments later, Devils defenceman Richard Smehlik coughed up the puck at his own blue line. Robert Reichel worked it to Kaberle, who fired a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle between the pads of goaltender Martin Brodeur.

"It doesn't matter who got the OT winner, bottom line is it's two points," said Kaberle, whose team is unbeaten in four straight (3-0-1). "They turned it over at the blue line and Jonas (Hoglund) did a good job. And then Bobby just got me the puck and I put it straight on the net."

"He just overpowered me," said Brodeur, who made 21 saves. "It went through me on the ice."

Belfour made 37 saves for his 400th NHL win and 36th this season, tying Curtis Joseph's 1999-2000 team record.

"It's definitely up there," Belfour said of the milestone. "It's something. I'm real honored about it and I am very thankful I am on the Toronto Maple Leafs with a great group of guys. They played great in front of me."

"I think Eddie was superb tonight, and he has been for us," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "You can't say enough about him for the season. He's been our backbone and certainly got us through a tough time."

Toronto had a 2-0 lead before the six-minute mark of the first period.

At 2:53, converted defenceman Wade Belak tipped Kaberle's left point shot under Brodeur's right arm for his second goal in as many games and third this season.

Mats Sundin added a power-play tally less than three minutes later. After Robert Svehla's shot hit him at the side of the net, Sundin gathered the rebound and flipped it over Brodeur, whose backhanded glove swipe came after the puck crossed the goal line.

Kaberle also picked up an assist and notched his second three-point game of the season.

For the fifth time in eight games, however, Toronto was unable to protect a two-goal cushion.

Jeff Friesen started the Devils' comeback with 10:35 to go in the first period. After a 2-on-1 was broken up, Belfour stopped a rebound by defenseman Scott Niedermayer but was out of position and could not stop Friesen's backhander from the right side.

Jamie Langenbrunner tied it on the power play at 12:59 of the second. Off a 3-on-2, he blasted a shot from the top of the left circle past Belfour, his former teammate on the Dallas Stars, for his 22nd goal.

"I don't know what you (in the media) thought, but I didn't think it was a particularly great game to watch," said New Jersey coach Pat Burns, whose team had a seven-game unbeaten streak stopped. "We were awful in the first, they were awful in the second. We were probably not hungry enough around the net.
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