The Toronto Maple Leafs staged a furious rally after losing their best defenceman Friday night, making what was likely their last game in the Meadowlands in New Jersey a memorable one.
Jeff O'Neill scored and Andrew Raycroft made the final stop on Sergei Brylinin a 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils, who will move to a new facility in Newark next season.
For much of the night, Toronto (31-25-9) appeared headed for a certain loss. They trailed 2-0 until eight minutes into the third, with New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur appearing a good bet to gain his 13th shutout of the season.
Worse yet, Maple Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle was taken off the ice on a stretcher after being levelled by New Jersey'sCam Janssen early in the second.
Kaberle took a hit to the head, long after he had passed the puck. The blueliner was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center and was expected to stay overnight as a precaution.
"You can't have the best players on the ice and someone taking liberties like that," said Raycroft. "It's unacceptable. Hopefully, they [the NHL] see the tape and do something. It's not the hit, it's the fact it's 10 seconds late."
Toronto coach Paul Maurice agreed, saying there was "absolutely no place for it in this game, and that's it."
Janssen was not penalized on the play and said he didn't think he should have been.
"I was just finishing my check," he said. "You hate to see that. It's a weird feeling. You never want to see that, but I've got to do my job. I've got to take the body and I did."
Carlo Colaiacovo, Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan rallied Toronto by scoring in a three-minute span in the third period for a 3-2 lead before Brylin tied the game on the power play with just over one minute left in regulation.
Raycroft, who had been pulled in his last two starts,finished with22 saves, manyof whichquality chances. As well, the goaltender and his teammates found themselves short-handed on seven occasions.
Jamie Langenbrunner and Jay Pandolfo scored on the power play for the Devils (40-19-6) to stake them to their lead.
While Brodeur has demonstrated mastery over most NHL teams, he is just 12-14 with seven ties in his career against the Maple Leafs.
O'Neill's goal was the third in five shootout attempts against the goaltender. Yanic Perreault, obtained at Tuesday's trade deadline, also scored on Brodeur in the shootout.
Toronto are now 11-4 in their last 15 road games. They have struggled at home and will try and reverse that trend when they host Buffalo on Saturday (CBC, 7 p.m. ET).
The Maple Leafs are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, but trail Carolina for the final playoff spot by just two points. Toronto have two games in hand on both the Hurricanes and Montreal, which is in ninth place.
Unlike the events of the recent brawl between Ottawa and Buffalo, the Maple Leafs did not seek immediate retribution for the Kaberle hit. The team's most active fighter, Wade Belak, was not in the lineup.
However, injured forward Darcy Tucker cameout of the dressing room and into the hallway between the team benches to yell at Janssen.
The result gave Toronto turnabout from the previous meeting in New Jersey, which took place in October. With Jean-Sebastien Aubin in net, the Maple Leafs blew a 5-3 lead and wouldlose in a shootout.
The two clubs will meet for the final time on March 20 in Toronto.