<
>

Devils lose fourth of five, drop into tie for seventh in East

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Jean-Sebastien Aubin always thought
he'd get back to the NHL.

Aubin finally got his opportunity Sunday night and he responded
with 36 saves to help the Toronto Maple Leafs keep pace in the
Eastern Conference playoff race with a 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

"I knew I would get one more chance somewhere if I kept working
hard," said Aubin, who spent most of the season in the minor
leagues. "It was big. I was really pumped after the final
whistle."

Chad Kilger, Kyle Wellwood, Mats Sundin and Matt Stajan had
goals for the Maple Leafs, who bounced back from consecutive
blowout losses to the Montreal Canadiens in which they were
outscored 11-3.

Toronto is in 10th place, seven points behind Montreal and New
Jersey who are tied for seventh and currently occupy the final two
playoff positions in the East. Ninth-place Atlanta is three points
off the pace.

The Devils have lost four of five.

Eric Rasmussen, Scott Gomez and Patrik Elias scored for the
Devils and Martin Brodeur was back in goal after a one-game rest.

But the focus was on Aubin and his triumphant return from the
minors.

He set the tone early in the first period, making a glove stop
on Zach Parise. The puck landed behind Aubin, who swatted it away
before it crossed the line.

"We all remember that he had a very successful time with
Pittsburgh," Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "He really saved
our bacon at the end."

Toronto dominated the first period, outshooting New Jersey 17-10
while building a 2-1 lead on goals by Kilger and Wellwood.

Kilger opened the scoring at 8:34 on a great individual effort.
He picked up the puck deep in the Toronto end and eluded defenseman
Brian Rafalski in the neutral zone to send a pass ahead to Darcy Tucker. Kilger kept driving forward to take a return feed that he
sent past Brodeur.

Rasmussen pulled the Devils even with a power-play goal, aided
by a lucky carom at 17:42. Sergei Brylin fired a shot wide of the
net that bounced off the back boards and came right to Rasmussen,
who stuffed the puck into the wide-open left side.

Wellwood put Toronto back in front 54 seconds later. Brodeur
tried to clear a puck from the slot but wound up nudging it to
Wellwood. He slipped past Devils defenseman David Hale to flip a
shot into the cage.

The first period set the pattern for the Devils.

"It seemed from the start we were all looking around, waiting
for something to happen instead of initiating, which is what we'd
done well previously," Rasmussen said. "It took us too long to
get out of it. We all know what's at stake. There is no excuse for
coming out the way we did."

In the second, Sundin scored at 15:53 to extend the Toronto lead
to 3-1. Sundin used Devils defenseman Colin White as a screen to
unload a shot that handcuffed Brodeur.

Brodeur made the outlet pass in the third period that set up
Gomez' goal at 2:24. Gomez picked up the pass in center ice and fed
Brian Gionta who fired a slap shot on Aubin. Gomez pounced on the
rebound to cut the Maple Leafs' lead to 3-2.

Stajan scored at 11:48 to restore Toronto's two-goal advantage.

Toronto jeopardized the win by taking three penalties in final
4:48. Elias scored a 5-on-3 power play at 16:23 and the Devils
pressed hard for the equalizer. Aubin made challenging stops on
Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner, and Maple Leafs defenseman Tomas Kaberle swept away a goal-bound puck from the crease.

New Jersey outshot Toronto 18-6 in the third period.

"We did everything you could ask in the last three minutes to
win the game," Devils coach Lou Lamoriello said. "We put
ourselves in a position we shouldn't have been in at that time."

Game notes
Aubin had last won on April 2, 2004, with Pittsburgh. He
signed with Toronto as an unrestricted free agent over the summer
and spent most of the season with the Toronto Marlies (AHL). He was
recalled on March 14. ... Mikael Tellqvist had started eight
straight games in goal for the Maple Leafs. ... The Devils were
2-for-5 on the power play to improve to 7-for-14 in their last
three games. ... The Maple Leafs swept the four-game season series
from the Devils.