Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo (bottom) dives to break up a short handed breakaway by New Jersey Devils left winger Jay Pandolfo (20) during first period NHL action in Toronto on Tuesday. (CP/Frank Gunn)
Most thought he'd already had it. At least his first-period fight with Cam Janssen seemed that long.
For all the pre-game talk of not seeking any revenge against Janssen and the New Jersey Devils, the Toronto Maple Leafs were a pretty happy bunch after Tuesday's 2-1 victory.
The Belak-Janssen bout lasted over a minute and a half, and a majority of Maple Leafs were still talking about it well after the final horn.
"I think everyone in the building was tired after that one," coach Paul Maurice said. "But probably not as sore."
Added captain Mats Sundin: "It was an unbelievable fight. I thought it was an appropriate thing to do."
Janssen, of course, had become enemy No. 1 in these parts for catching Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle with a late hit and giving him a concussion on March 2.
The Maple Leafs left him alone after the fight with Belak. After all, the two points they earned for a victory were far more important than chasing him all over the ice.
Kyle Wellwood and Nik Antropov scored the goals and Sundin reached 900 points as a Maple Leaf with two assists for Toronto (35-28-10), which moved into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference with Carolina and Montreal.
"You don't have to be a genius to understand it - we're in a position where every point is big," said Sundin.
Travis Zajac replied for New Jersey (43-22-8).
Janssen and Belak squared off at centre ice at 9:23 of the first period while most of the 19,518 in attendance stood on their feet and chanted Belak's name.
The Devils tough guy knew it was coming and was left with a sore head and hands.
"I'm not going to go hide," said Janssen, who had just four shifts and played 2:04. "I know what I did. I went out there and did my job, tried to get the boys going.
"(Belak) got his boys going, and it was a good game."
Indeed, the fight did inject some atmosphere into the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto scored the precious first goal when Wellwood one-timed a pass from Sundin through the legs of Martin Brodeur to make it 1-0. The Maple Leafs had allowed the first goal in eight of their last nine games and doing that against the defensive Devils could have been costly.
"It was pivotal against that team," said Maurice, who has repeatedly preached the importance of a good start to his team. "I don't think that anybody plays the game they want against Jersey from behind."
The Devils had more than their share of chances to draw even in the second period.
They only registered six shots in the frame, but it's three that didn't count that they were left thinking about - Zach Parise and David Clarkson each hit the post behind Andrew Raycroft while Scott Gomez missed a wide open goal after the Leafs goalie had coughed up the puck.
"We had plenty of chances," said New Jersey winger Jay Pandolfo. "We hit at least three posts, maybe four. We can't keep our heads down after this loss.
Antropov's goal at 6:09 of the third period made it 2-0 for Toronto a few minutes after Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner had hit yet another post.
But Zajac scored 40 seconds later to make it 2-1 and set up a tight finish.
Raycroft made some nifty in the final minutes to preserve a badly needed victory for his team. Even he was talking about getting a lift from Belak and the fight.
"It got the crowd going and we all got a boost from that," said Raycroft, who finished with 24 saves. "He did a great job. He took it to him."
The Toronto players were as happy as a bunch of boys who'd just seen a good scrap after school.
But alas, it's time to move on. With the Janssen saga behind them, the Maple Leafs can start looking ahead to something even bigger - Kaberle's expected return on Friday night for a tough road game against the Buffalo Sabres.
Notes: The Devils are an amazing 12-2-2 away from Continental Airlines Arena in 2007 . . . It was the third career game for the 22-year-old Clarkson, who grew up in Toronto and regularly attended games at Maple Leaf Gardens . . . Belak's last goal came on Dec. 20, 2003 against Montreal - a span of 132 games . . . The Maple Leafs announced the signing of defenceman Reid Cashman, who recently finished playing at Quinnipac University.