Gomez assists push New Jersey to victory

Devils slip past Leafs

Posted: Sunday, May 07, 2000

TORONTO -- The New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, meeting in the playoffs for the first time, quickly have developed an intense dislike for one another.

Scott Gomez had two critical assists and the Devils moved within one victory of the Eastern Conference finals by beating Toronto 4-3 Saturday night as tempers boiled over on and off the ice.

The Devils took a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven semifinal series, with Game 6 in New Jersey on Monday.

The end of the game was marred by several fights, while Maple Leafs fans littered the ice with garbage. One spectator tried to fight with a New Jersey player as the teams headed to their locker rooms.

Toronto's Darcy Tucker ignited the commotion when he took some swings at New Jersey goalkeeper Martin Brodeur at the final horn.

''I got four or five crosschecks to the back of the head standing in front of the net,'' said Tucker, who had a run-in with Brodeur in the second period after crashing into the New Jersey net.

''Then, at the end of the game, I'm on the ice and (Brodeur) sticks the end of his stick in my back and jabs me with it. I guess if he wants to do that, I'm going to run him over next game.''

John Madden, a rookie who scored the Devils' last goal, can sense the growing hatred between the teams.

''I don't think there's history between the two franchises, but the players on the ice have played with each other and against each other and it's just a lot of love-hate relationship out there,'' Madden said. ''I know a lot of guys in the room have a lot of strong feelings towards each other.''

After the game ended, Toronto's Steve Thomas went after New Jersey defenseman Scott Niedermayer, while Tucker threw a number of punches Brodeur. And the mayhem didn't end there.

''When we were coming off the ice, one of the Toronto fans tried to take liberties with one of our guys and came at him,'' Madden said. ''But the security guys pulled him back and there was a little bit of yelling and obscene words used.''

Brodeur laughed off the his skirmish with Tucker.

''I hit him with my stick,'' Brodeur said. ''This is the playoffs. We'll turn the cheek and go on if they want to play that game.''

New Jersey capitalized on two of five power-play chances Saturday and have scored five extra-man goals in the last three games.

Gomez played a big role as the Devils overcame two one-goal deficits to build a 4-2 lead.

After setting up Sergei Nemchinov's goal that tied the game 2-2 with 4:01 left in the second period, Gomez made a brilliant behind-the-back pass, setting up Vladimir Malakhov's go-ahead goal 7:47 into the third.

Just inside the Toronto blue line, Gomez faked a shot, freezing a Leafs defender, and passed to Malakhov. With Toronto's Kevyn Adams trying to stop him from behind, Malakhov snapped a 20-footer that beat Curtis Joseph.

And Gomez, the favorite to win the NHL's rookie of the year award, has regained his form after coach Larry Robinson threatened to bench him prior to Game 2.

''He had confidence to stick with me in the lineup and everyone's been positive here,'' said Gomez, who has two goals and five points in his last three games.

Madden upped the lead when he slapped a shot from the top of the left circle through a screen to beat Joseph with 5:53 remaining.

Patrik Elias scored the Devils' first goal.

The Maple Leafs closed within one when Sergei Berezin scored with 2:56 left, but they couldn't get tie.

Garry Valk and Jeff Farkas, who made his NHL debut in Game 4, also scored for the Leafs, who have yet to get much offense from their top line: Thomas, Mats Sundin and Jonas Hoglund.

The Maple Leafs' power play continued to struggle, finishing 0-for-2. They have gone eight straight games -- back to a first-round series against Ottawa -- without scoring with a man-advantage.

Overall, Toronto's power-play is 2-for-41 in the playoffs. Only the Los Angeles Kings, 0-for-23 while being swept by Detroit in the first round, has been worse.

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