Danis makes one of his 23 saves against the Maple Leafs.
This wasn’t the same Toronto Maple Leafs team the Devils beat Friday in New Jersey.
On Tuesday, Jersey’s Team ran into the recently overhauled Leafs, who got 30 saves from newly-acquired goaltender J.S. Giguere to top the Devils, 3-0, at Air Canada Centre.
Nikolai Kulemin, Phil Kessel and Francois Beauchemin scored to help Toronto snap its six-game losing streak and move out of the Eastern Conference basement.
Giguere, who arrived from Anaheim in exchange for Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala, was one of three players to debut for the Leafs following a busy weekend of wheeling and dealing by Toronto President and GM Brian Burke.
Dion Phaneuf and Freddy Sjostrom also made their first appearances with the Leafs following the seven-player trade that sent Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White to Calgary. The other piece of the deal, defensive prospect Keith Aulie, was assigned to Toronto’s AHL-affiliate Marlies.
“They’re much better defensively, you can tell,” said head coach Jacques Lemaire. “They’ve got great shooters on the point and you could see it tonight. They got some great shots.”
Toronto scored once in the first period and twice in the second to hand the Devils their eighth loss in the last 11 games (3-7-1). New Jersey (35-18-2) still holds a one-point lead over Pittsburgh for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Yann Danis made 23 saves in his fourth start of the season and first since Nov. 21. He suffered his first loss in eight appearances and saw his record slip to 3-1.
Giguere won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in 2003, when the Devils beat his Mighty Ducks in the Stanley Cup Finals. He picked up his fifth win and second shutout of 2009-10 on Tuesday as New Jersey was blanked for the fourth time in their last 12 outings.
“We’re working, we’re just not sharp,” Lemaire said. “The passes are not going through. The right play’s not there at the right time. That’s why you don’t create a lot of chances. We just have to be sharper.”
In the teams’ meeting last week, the Devils blew a two-goal lead in the third period before Travis Zajac secured a 5-4 win in overtime. Though they outshot the Leafs, 12-5, in Tuesday's third period, New Jersey was unable to get much generated in their first trip to Toronto this season.
Zajac had one of the Devils’ best scoring chances when he put a Johnny Oduya rebound off the right post with 2:53 left in the second. But the loose puck was cleared to safety by Toronto’s Christian Hanson before a Devil could get a stick on it.
Zajac, who entered with two goals and three assists in the previous two games, recorded four shots. Leading scorer Zach Parise rode a two-game surge (2g-4a) into Toronto and fired two shots. Dainius Zubrus led the Devils with five.
“We know we have to play better,” Parise said. “Tonight I don’t think was really a step in the right direction. It wasn’t very good.”
Parise had a first-period run-in with Phaneuf along the boards. The Toronto blueliner put a hit on No. 9, and was challenged immediately by Colin White.
“I knew he was coming and I was ready for it,” Parise said.
Lemaire wants to see more cohesive play out of his squad when they face the Leafs for the third time in a week this Friday at the Rock.
“”We don’t play as a group – it’s all individual effort,” Lemaire said. “Little passes that should be there that are not there. Seeing a guy at the side of the net. Getting in front of the net, in front of the goalie so that a guy can get a clear shot. Little things that bring you goals, but you have to sacrifice to get them.”
Kulemin opened the scoring 4:40 into the first period, putting home a Sjostrom rebound from the slot for his 11th of the season.
Toronto took a two-goal lead 2:23 into the second period, after Danis had robbed Alexei Ponikarovsky’s redirection on a Leafs two-on-one. Kessel trailed the play, and popped the rebound into the open net before Danis could recover to make the save.
Beauchemin rounded out the scoring on the power play. He picked up his fifth with a blast from the point that deflected off Zubrus’ stick near the blue line and past Danis with 5:51 to go in the middle frame.
• Parise was asked about Andy Greene possibly filling the Team USA roster spot of Paul Martin, who announced Monday that he has withdrawn from the Olympics because of injury. The Devils’ top defenseman has been out of action since October with a fractured forearm.
Greene leads New Jersey blueliners with 24 points on five goals, 19 assists. He would join Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner, who were named to Team USA’s 23-man roster on Jan. 1.
“He’s had a really good season for us,” Parise said. “He does a good job on the power play, makes a good first pass out of the zone, and he plays well defensively. If that is the case, he’ll be a good fit."
Parise expressed his disappointment that Martin will be unable to participate in the Olympic tournament, which gets underway in Vancouver on Feb. 16.
"It is frustrating," he said. "I'm sure for Paul and for everyone who thought Paul was going to be there. He got hurt in October and he's still not back. I don't know how that happens. Most importantly, we want him to have a speedy recovery. It hasn't been very speedy, but we have to get him back here healthy and playing for us."
1 - 0 TOR
2 - 0 TOR
3 - 0 TOR