NEWARK, New Jersey (Reuters) - The New Jersey Devils scored twice in the final 44 seconds to overcome the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 on Friday.
Toronto, the bottom team in the Northeast Division, seemed to be cruising to victory when leading 3-1 late in the third period but New Jersey hit back with three goals in just over three minutes.
Jay Pandolfo struck the winner with 19 seconds left after Travis Zajac's power-play goal had leveled the game via an assist from newly acquired Ilya Kovalchuk.
"Jamie (Langenbrunner) made a great play in the zone to keep it in and made a nice pass to back to Motts (Mike Mottau) and I went to the net and got the rebound," Pandolfo told reporters.
Dean McAmmond sparked the Atlantic Division leaders' comeback, scoring with 3:04 to play, then teaming with Kovalchuk to assist Zajac's goal.
"It (Zajac's tying score) was obviously a huge goal, but Dean's goal was even bigger because it gave us life on the bench and three minutes were still remaining," Pandolfo said.
The high-scoring Kovalchuk, traded to New Jersey by the Atlanta Thrashers on Thursday, also assisted on the Devils' first goal by Dainius Zubrus in the opening period.
"I'm very excited," the Russian said. "I took a bad penalty (for interference) that led to their second goal so to make a comeback like that was great."
FUN TO WATCH
Kovalchuk's impressive debut was welcomed by his Devils team mates.
"You're trying so hard to get the puck to a new team mate, especially someone like Ilya, because he's so fun to watch," Pandolfo said.
Tomas Kaberle, Lee Stempniak and Rickard Wallin all scored in a 13-minute spree in the second period for Toronto, who were bidding for their second upset win over New Jersey in three days after they blanked the Devils 3-0 at home Tuesday.
"I think it was our toughest loss," Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson said.
"We lose a game that we were controlling the whole time. It was a complete turnaround late in the game and it's tough because you really want to win and get the points."
Gustavsson made 24 saves for Toronto with opposite number Martin Brodeur making 17 for the Devils.
"I think the emotion we had was something we haven't shown in a little while so to come back and win it was great," Brodeur said.
"It was a tough game because there were high expectations (with Kovalchuk playing) and people were looking at Kovy all night. We were looking at him too. It's just nice to pull it off at the end."
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina. Editing by Patrick Johnston)