The Devils came into this one on a ten-game winning streak, while the Leafs returned home after an impressive road victory in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. The first five minutes had a great pace with very few whistles. However, there weren’t many shots for either team. Shots were just 1-0 for the Leafs after five minutes of play. The Devils didn’t generate any offense till almost seven minutes into this one. Fortunately for the blue and white, Matt Murray answered the bell and came up with back-to-back key saves. Nylander with a fantastic shift halfway through the period. He was relentless on the forecheck, stole the puck, and rang a snapshot off the post. The game’s first penalty goes to the Leafs at 10:46 of the opening frame as Zach Aston-Reese was called for slashing. The Leafs killed off the penalty and didn’t give up a single shot on goal.
Shortly after the penalty expired, Matt Murray was forced to come up with a huge save for the Leafs. With 5:58 to go in the period, the Leafs were given their first power play of the game as Dougie Hamilton was called for high sticking on Leafs captain John Tavares. The Leafs work the puck around the Devils zone the entire power play, and it ends with Michael Bunting finding Auston Matthews all alone in the slot, and he made absolutely no mistake finishing off the play with his 8th goal of the year giving the Leafs a 1-0 lead. Michael Bunting and Mitch Marner with the assists. The Devils wasted no time as they responded with a goal of their own before the Leafs goal was announced by Leafs PA announcer Mike Ross. The tying goal was scored by Jesper Bratt, his seventh goal of the year. Assists on the goal went to Erik Haula and Brendan Smith. Shots on goal after 20 minutes of play were 12-9 in favor of the Devils.
The second period saw great pace from both teams once again. The Devils broke the 1-1 tie on a goal from their captain Nico Hiesher, his ninth goal of the year. Fabian Zetterlund with the lone assist on the go-ahead goal. With 8:32 remaining in the second period, the Leafs were robbed of a 5-on-3 opportunity. There was a delayed penalty for interference when Mitch Marner was taken down before the Devils touched the puck. Obviously, there should have been two separate penalties on the play. Unfortunately for the blue and white, the refs elected to call just the one minor on Jonas Siegenthaler for interference. The top unit spent the first minute and a half of the power play in the Devil’s zone. However, they could not generate a single shot on goal during the man advantage. 17:36 into the period, the Devils were given their second power play as veteran defenceman Jordie Benn was called for cross-checking on Devils superstar Jack Hughes. The blue and white were successful in killing on the penalty. While Murray wasn’t super busy in this one, he came up with some fantastic saves when called upon. In the late stages of the second period, the Devils were called for yet another minor penalty as Nathan Bastian was called for goalie interference after bumping into Matt Murray. The minor cut the Devils power play short, resulting in some 4-on-4 play followed by an abbreviated power play for the Leafs to finish the period. The score would remain 2-1 by the end of the frame.
Shots on goal in the middle frame were 8-6 in favor of the Devils and 20-15 overall in favor of New Jersey. TOI leader after 40 minutes was Morgan Rielly with 15:31.
With the Leafs only having 15 shots on goal heading to the 3rd period, it almost felt like we went back in time, and the Leafs were facing a Devils team from the late 90s to early 2000s. The Devils were hands down the stingiest team in terms of shots against during the “dead puck” era. While this was Murray’s second start since coming back from a lengthy time on the injured reserve list, he looked very sharp and composed once again in this one. Full credit to the Devils, as they were relentless on the puck and not giving the Leafs any time or space to generate any offense in the first 8 minutes of the final frame. Damon Severson was called for cross-checking on Pontus Holmberg, giving the Leafs their fourth power play of the game with 12:19 remaining in regulation. The Leafs could only generate a single shot on goal during their first three power plays. Once again, the Leafs power play was unsuccessful. They only generated a single shot on goal during the man advantage. John Tavares received a high stick that went uncalled, but the hockey Gods evened out the play as the Devils shot the puck out of play in their own zone resulting in a delay of game penalty with just over five minutes remaining in regulation. The Leafs power play was once again non-existent. That was their fifth-man advantage of the night, and they could only generate a total of three shots during those power plays. The Leafs entered the zone with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, and William Nylander rifled one past Vitek Vanecek with just 2:09 to go, his eighth goal of the year. Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly with the assists on the game tying goal. Shots on goal in the 3rd period were 12-11 in favor of the Leafs and 31-27 overall in favor of the Devils.
Once again, 3-on-3 overtime was not friendly to the blue and white. A terrible turnover at the defensive blue line by captain John Tavares led to Jack Hughes generating a great scoring chance for himself. Matt Murray made the save on Hughes, but Yegor Sharangovich jumped all over the rebound and made absolutely no mistake burying his fourth goal of the year and ending this game just 57 seconds into the extra frame. To quote Jack Hughes, the Devils “heater” extends to 11 after the win in this one. In this one, the TOI leader for the blue and white was Morgan Rielly, with 26:28. I’m not sure what the issue is, but the Leafs just cannot seem to find success in overtime this season. The Leafs move from this one to take on the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night, Hockey Night in Canada.
Tonight’s Three Stars
1. Yegor Sharangovich: 1 Goal (GWG)
2. Vitek Vanecek: 25 Saves on 27 Shots
3. Matt Murray: 30 Saves on 33 Shots
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