Leafs rally for win on Babcock’s milestone night

The Maple Leafs erased a 2-1 third period deficit to prevail 3-2 in a shootout over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday. The victory was special for coach Mike Babcock, who was behind the bench for his 1,000th career game.

Babcock has compiled a record of 546-307-19-128 with Anaheim, Detroit and Toronto over that stretch.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud, but you just want to win the game,” Babcock said of the milestone. Dion Phaneuf played in his 800th career game, while it was the 700th game for Joffrey Lupul, and 300th outing for Nazem Kadri.

After New Jersey’s Jacob Josefson opened the scoring on a power play in the first period, Shawn Matthias scored the equalizer just after a Leafs’ man advantge expired. Matthias converted a tic-tac-toe passing play that began with PA Parenteau’s cross-ice feed to Tyler Bozak, followed by Bozak’s centring effort to Matthias.

While the first period had some entertaining action, the second frame – by contrast – had scant scoring opportunities.

“If you look at both teams tonight, it didn’t look like anybody was going to score,” Babcock said. “It’s just a clogfest out there.”

The Devils went ahead in the third period when David Schlemko’s point shot eluded James Reimer, just underneath the crossbar. Toronto challenged the play for goalie interference, claiming that ex-Leaf Lee Stempniak had bumped Reimer, but to no avail.

With six attackers in the closing moments of regulation, Toronto evened the score as Tyler Bozak ended a personal 15-game goal drought. The Leafs centre won a key draw, then positioned himself near the faceoff circle, where he eventually took a pass from Peter Holland and one-timed a shot past New Jersey goalie Keith Kincaid.

After a scoreless overtime, PA Parenteau – the overtime hero on Tuesday in Boston – became the only successful skater in the shootout.

“New Jersey, they’re known to play that kind of style. It’s a grind game,” Parenteau said. “They skate very well. They’ve got a very good team. Like I said, we showed a lot of character. We competed all night.”

Meanwhile Babcock, the only coaching member of the Triple Gold Club (Stanley Cup, World Championship, and Olympic gold), added that he could coach another 1,000 games.

“I have this year, and then I have seven more here, then I’m going to stay for two more, because the team is going to be that good,” he said.