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Devils force Game 7

The defending Stanley Cup champs pull themselves together, beat Leafs 4-2 in another tumultuous game.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 8, 2001

TORONTO -- For almost two weeks, the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs have fought a bitter and well-contested playoff series. Who knows how much energy, health and composure the winner will have left for the Eastern Conference final?

But that is a question for later. In the meantime, the central issue is the deciding Game 7, to be played Wednesday at New Jersey. The Devils, the defending Stanley Cup champions, avoided elimination Monday night with a 4-2 victory to tie the series at three games apiece.

"We are the champions, and we want to play like it," said Jason Arnott, who had a goal and an assist. "We knew we had poor outings before, and we didn't want to be put out that way. We wanted to go out strong.

"Now we're back in it."

The Devils won by rediscovering a determination and grittiness that appeared lacking over the past few weeks. Since opening their first-round series with three victories against Carolina, the Devils are 4-5.

"We gave ourselves an opportunity to decide the series at home," the Devils' Bobby Holik said. "I feel like we needed to be put against the wall ... that we would come up with the type of effort we did tonight."

New Jersey opened the scoring almost five minutes into the game, and despite a number of undisciplined penalties, it never relinquished the lead.

After Mats Sundin scored a power-play goal 2:17 into the third period to cut Toronto's deficit to 3-2, Arnott sealed the win less than four minutes later.

Toronto goalie Curtis Joseph made the initial stop, blocking Patrik Elias' spin-around backhand shot from the slot. But the rebound rolled to Arnott, who fired a low shot just inside the near post.

Not surprisingly, the game did not end without incident.

Toronto's Darcy Tucker was penalized after he drove to the net with the puck and bowled over goalie Martin Brodeur with 1:47 remaining.

"He just went right through me," Brodeur said. "I saw a little stars."

The Devils tried to get even when, with 25.9 seconds left, Randy McKay traded punches with Joseph.

McKay said he retaliated after Joseph got in the first blows, including a slash across the back of a leg and a shove to the back of his head.

"The first (hit) I can accept. The second one, he really came at my head, so I just figured it was enough," McKay said.

Said Joseph: "Usually, when you're up 4-2 with 25 seconds left, the winning team doesn't have that much frustration."

The frustration has been building since Thursday, when Toronto's Tie Domi blindsided Devils defenseman Scott Niedermayer with a vicious elbow to the face well behind the play.

Monday, Niedermayer missed his second game since the hit. It was the first game in Toronto since Domi was suspended for at least the rest of the playoffs.

The sold-out Air Canada Centre booed when it was announced Domi would not be in the lineup, and it cheered Niedermayer's absence. Among the signs were: "Un-Tie Domi" and "Bring Back Tie."

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