Maple Leafs de­feat Devils

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - TERRY KOSHAN POST­MEDIA NEWS

NE­WARK — A com­plete, 60-minute effort con­tin­ues to elude the Maple Leafs.

They were able to get away with that on Thursday night, beat­ing the short­handed New Jersey Devils 4-2 de­spite some in­con­sis­tent hockey on 80’s Night at the Pru­den­tial Cen­ter.

The Leafs went into the game 17 points ahead of the Devils in the East­ern Con­fer­ence stand­ings, but didn’t demon­strate much in the way of a killer in­stinct af­ter tak­ing a three-goal lead into the first in­ter­mis­sion.

The win was not ce­mented un­til Mitch Marner scored into an empty net with 22 sec­onds re­main­ing.

John Tavares scored two goals as the Leafs fin­ished a three-game sea­son sweep of the Devils, outscor­ing New Jersey 17-5.

While the Leafs wel­comed Zach Hy­man back to the lineup af­ter he missed eight games with a sprained an­kle, the Devils con­tin­ued to forge ahead with­out the in­jured Tay­lor Hall, among oth­ers.

With some new-look lines, the Leafs took the play to the Devils at times but at oth­ers weren’t ex­actly ur­gent in their over­all effort in front of an an­nounced crowd of 15,280.

The build­ing was fu­neral-quiet and the Devils looked to be done when the home side struck for a pair of goals 26 sec­onds apart just past the 16-minute mark of the sec­ond pe­riod.

Shoddy and loose de­fen­sive­zone play by Toronto helped re­sult in both goals.

Blake Cole­man got the first at 16:07, able to calmly put his own re­bound past Toronto goal­tender Michael Hutchin­son with no Leafs in the vicin­ity.

Brian Boyle scored at 16:33, tak­ing a pass from Blake Pi­etila and snap­ping a shot be­hind Hutchin­son as the Leafs de­fence pair of Jake Gar­diner and Nikita Zait­sev couldn’t get un­tracked.

Ear­lier in the pe­riod, the game might have been over if not for a cou­ple of large saves by New Jersey goalie Keith Kinkaid, who de­nied Nazem Kadri and Tavares.

The Leafs were in con­trol through the first pe­riod, tak­ing a 3-0 lead and gen­er­ally keep­ing the Devils to the out­side.

Toronto had 18 shot at­tempts in the open­ing 20 min­utes, 15 of which found the net; New Jersey had 14 shot at­tempts in to­tal.

Toronto has scored a num­ber of eye-pop­ping goals this sea­son, but the one by Tavares at 19:53 has to land some­where in the top five.

Marner’s vi­sion, equalled by few, al­lowed him to spot Mor­gan Rielly across the ice and feed the de­fence­man with a back­hand pass. Rielly took a few strides to­ward Kinkaid and passed off to Tavares, who wired a one-timer into the net.

The goal was Tavares’ 301st in the NHL and de­cid­edly was pret­tier than his 300th. That came at 7:21 when Tavares picked a Jake Gar­diner re­bound out of a scram­ble and moved to his back­hand, shrug­ging off the check of Devils cen­tre Travis Za­jac to score.

Tavares fell short of what would have been his 10th NHL hat trick and sec­ond with the Leafs. Still, we don’t think any­one will ar­gue with the fact Tavares now sits at 29 goals in 43 games with Toronto.

Ron Hain­sey’s first goal in 20 games gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead at 4:30. Af­ter Hy­man and Brown dug the puck out be­hind the Devils net, Hain­sey leaned into a shot at the point that found its way into the top left corner on Kinkaid.

Hy­man, as the pre-game think­ing went, made him­self known in his re­turn.

“He gets the puck back and you spend time in the zone and he is a heavy body who plays the game heavy,” Leafs coach Mike Bab­cock said of Hy­man be­fore the game. “He is re­lent­less. The guys who play with him end up spend­ing a lot of time in the of­fen­sive zone.”

The Leafs ap­peared to have lost de­fence­man Travis Der­mott, who hit the boards head-first early in the first when he was hit by Devils for­ward Brett Seney.

A board­ing mi­nor was called on the play, and Der­mott got up slowly, even­tu­ally mak­ing his way to the dressing room. Late in the first pe­riod, Leafs Na­tion ex­haled as Der­mott re­turned to the bench and soon af­ter, to the ice.

Aus­ton Matthews had some pos­ses­sion for the Leafs in the of­fen­sive zone, but is stuck on one goal in his past eight games.

ADAM HUNGER/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hy­man watches as a puck shot by team­mate Mitch Marner, not pic­tured, slides into the empty New Jersey Devils net in the Leafs’ 4-2 win over the Devils on Thursday.

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