Gerber made 37 saves against his former team and helped the Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 on Saturday night in the final game of the season for both clubs.
With the Maple Leafs and Senators long out of playoff contention, this was no Battle of Ontario. But it was a big victory for Gerber, who started the season with Ottawa before being claimed off waivers by Toronto last month.
“It was probably more exciting than everybody thought it was going to be,” Gerber said. “It was well fought to the end. We’re happy to come out on the good end.”
“It’s still Saturday night in Toronto and you’re playing for the Leafs on ‘Hockey Night in Canada,”’ Devereaux said. “Definitely whenever you get a chance to pop a hat trick, you definitely get excited about it.
“I’m sure it’s more satisfying in a Game 7 playoff game but certainly I’ll take it. For sure.”
The 30-year-old Devereaux was the Leafs’ final cut out of training camp and he spent the first couple of months in the AHL. He was eventually called up in February and he managed to stay with Toronto the rest of the way. Devereaux can become an unrestricted free agent in July.
“I’ve come up and just tried to enjoy myself and have fun,” Devereaux said. “I really relish playing at this level. They have a lot of hard decisions and I’m sure there’s going to be lots of changes.
“I’m just going to have to wait and see like pretty much every other guy in the locker room.”
“Any time you lose it’s disappointing,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “But overall, I’m not disappointed in this group.”
There was little on the line beyond pride, although a regulation loss by the Maple Leafs would have given them an outside chance at landing the No. 1 pick in the June draft.
With the game tied 2-2 early in the third period, Hagman put the Maple Leafs ahead for good when he beat Brian Elliott from the slot.
A late power play gave Ottawa a chance for the tying goal, but Devereaux swooped in while the Maple Leafs were short-handed and roofed a backhander to complete his hat trick.
A few hats were thrown on the ice while teammate Matt Stajan retrieved the puck. It was quite an end to the season for a guy who spent most of it in the AHL.
“It’s a huge game for him to have a hat trick,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “Probably the thrill of his lifetime. He’s worked really hard and you couldn’t be happier for a guy to get a hat trick in the last game of the season.”
Toronto had already hit two posts when Devereaux made it 1-0 at 4:59 of the first period.
The Senators responded with plenty of energy, but were unable to beat Gerber with any of their 16 shots in the period. Dany Heatley had two of the best chances—he couldn’t make much of a move on a partial breakaway early in the frame but got all of a one-timer that Gerber stopped with his pad.
Another goal by Devereaux early in the second period made it 2-0. He hammered Lee Stempniak’s pass past Elliott at 4:48.
Gerber was rolling along at the other end until a couple of gaffes behind the goal allowed Ottawa to tie it 2-2.
Spezza stole the puck from Gerber before coming around the net and sliding it into the empty net for his 32nd goal at 9:14. Just under 2 1/2 minutes later, Gerber’s pass to defenseman Ian White ended up on Kelly’s stick and then into the back of the net.
Ottawa finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, one spot ahead of the Maple Leafs. The last time there wasn’t an NHL playoff game played in Ontario, in years when the postseason was contested, was in 1992.
“(These games) are meaningless in the standings but they’re never meaningless to the guys that have to go on the ice and perform,” Wilson said.