TORONTO – Marty Brodeur remains unbeaten since returning to the New Jersey lineup.
Johnny Oduya pushed in a rebound while sliding into the crease 4:48 into overtime to give the Devils a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, improving Brodeur’s record to 4-0 since he reappeared after a 50-game absence while rehabbing from an elbow injury.
Brodeur moved within four wins of breaking Patrick Roy’s NHL record of 551 career goaltending victories, and he had Oduya to thank for his latest win.
“I was just going for the net and if the puck came loose I was going to whack at it and that’s pretty much what happened,” said Oduya.
David Clarkson and Patrik Elias scored New Jersey’s other goals and John Mitchell scored both Toronto goals in front of an Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,389.
Leafs GM Brian Burke pulled Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore from the lineup as he attempted to move the forwards before the Wednesday trading deadline.
“They’re both involved in deals and it doesn’t make sense to put them at risk of injury,” Burke said before the game.
The Devils had puck possession for prolonged stretches of the game and only outstanding goaltending by Vesa Toskala forced extra time. New Jersey outshot Toronto 53-32.
“We let them hang in,” said Brodeur. “We had plenty of chances to put them away in the first two periods; we had a lot of shots and they somewhat built on that.
“They had a great third period and it was kind of nice for us to show some character and pull it off.”
The Leafs hadn’t allowed that many shots all season.
“He was unbelievable,” coach Ron Wilson said of Toskala. “He was the reason we got a point.
“With people out of the lineup, we knew scoring would be a struggle. We needed great goaltending, and we got it.”
It was the seventh consecutive game in which Toronto played extra time, tying the NHL record set by the 2003-04 Edmonton Oilers. The Leafs could break the record in Washington on Thursday.
“We’re going to blow that record right out of the water if I’ve got anything to do with it,” said a beaming Wilson. “Look out, Washington.”
Getting a piece of the record is a testament to his players’ work ethic, he added.
With Antropov and Moore out, Mitchell got plenty of ice time and made the most of the opportunity.
“You always feel a little more confident when that happens,” Mitchell said of his expanded role. “Certain guys are going to get traded and other guys have to come in and step up and play.”
He only had five goals going into the game.
“I’m one of those guys that has kind of been on the fourth line the whole season and now that some guys are out of the lineup it gives me an opportunity to climb up the depth chart a little bit. When those chances come, I’ve got to come ready to play.”
Scoring two on a legendary goalie will stick in his mind.
“It’s definitely nice to score against Marty Brodeur,” said Mitchell. “I watched him for many years on Hockey Night In Canada. He’s a great goalie. At least I can tell my family and friends I’ve scored two goals on him in one game.”
Any Leafs fans wondering if Tomas Kaberle might join Antropov and Moore on their way out of town can rest easy because an injury might take him out of the trade market. The Czech defenceman didn’t come out for the third period after reinjuring the right hand he broke Jan. 29. This was only his second game back.
“I lost strength in it,” he said. “I hope it’s not as bad as I think.”
He was to have it checked out Wednesday.
The Devils, second in the Eastern Conference, have won nine of their last 11 games, while the Leafs, 11th in the East, suffered their first loss in five.
Brodeur remained three behind Terry Sawchuk’s record of 103 shutouts.
“I just want to win games and sometimes you just have to shut them down,” he said when asked if shutouts are on his mind. “It’s never something in the back of my mind. It’s all about winning.
“When I came back I was 100 per cent healthy with my arm. It’s just a question of testing it right now. The last four games I’ve done everything I can in a lot of different situations and my arm has held up pretty good.”
Coach Brent Sutter couldn’t have cared less that it took his team extra time to finish off the inferior Leafs.
“At times in the third period we got a little sloppy with the puck but, for the most part, we played a pretty smart hockey game and, when you get 50 shots on a goaltender, you’re doing something right,” said Sutter.
Notes(at): Toronto won its previous two games against New Jersey this season in shootouts . . . Both teams were 1-for-4 on power plays . . . RW Niklas Hagman remained out as a result of being elbowed in the head by the Islanders’ Brendan Witt last Thursday . . . Eddie (The Entertainer) Shack stood and waved his black stetson in response to applause after a video clip of some of his on-ice antics 40 years ago.