The Leafs have won five of six since that 8-2 blowout on Dec. 17. The latest victory came Saturday night in a 6-3 win over the New Jersey Devils that gave Toronto a season-best, five-game winning streak.
“You have that kind of thing to discuss among the group,” coach Pat Quinn said. “We said it wasn’t very pretty and we have to do some things better. We have been getting better and maybe that had quite a bit to do with catching everybody’s attention.”
New Jersey’s Scott Gomez had his second career hat trick, two nights after scoring twice in a loss at Pittsburgh.
The Devils have lost five of their last six and 11 of 14. They are 2-5 since president and general manager Lou Lamoriello stepped behind the bench as interim coach following Larry Robinson’s resignation.
Lamoriello indicated the slump could lead to trades.
“I’m the person who has to find those answers and those solutions,” Lamoriello said. “We have some players who are not performing up to expectations. That’s not acceptable.”
After Gomez beat Ed Belfour for his first career penalty-shot goal at 1:27 of the second period, Toronto broke the game open with four straight goals in the period.
Czerkawski tied it at 2 at 7:26, backhanding Clarke Wilm’s rebound past Martin Brodeur while falling. Tucker then one-timed a pass from O’Neill to give the Leafs a 3-2 lead. O’Neill, scoring for only the second time in 15 games, upped Toronto’s lead to 4-2 with a power-play goal at 9:46.
Tomas Kaberle got the final Toronto goal of the period at 14:06.
“We just did simple things,” Kaberle said. “They weren’t huge plays. We made one or two passes and it was in the net.”
In the third, Pohl got his first NHL goal, a power-play tally at 4:35.
Gomez got his third at 7:48 to close out the scoring.
“We’re embarrassed right now,” Gomez said. “We’ve let the fans down. People pay good money and they’ve always had pride in the Devils. We just haven’t done the job.”
In the first period, Gomez and Sundin exchanged goals.
Gomez gave the Devils an early lead at 3:44, tipped Zach Parise’s pass from the left wing past Belfour.
Sundin pulled Toronto even with a short-handed effort at 9:02. Sundin picked up the puck in his own end and skated to the right circle to beat Brodeur.
The Devils are still awaiting the return of Patrik Elias, who has missed the entire season because of Hepatitis A. He resumed practicing with the team this week but speculation he could return for the Toronto game proved premature. … The successful penalty shot was the first for the Devils since Elias beat Damian Rhodes of Atlanta on March 10, 2000.