TORONTO, ON - Blake Coleman and Auston Matthews traded hat tricks, but, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the driver's seat thanks to an early 4-0 lead, which gave them enough cushion to beat New Jersey 7-4 on Tuesday night.
The road trip continues Thursday in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals. The game can be seen on MSG+ 2 and heard on the Devils Hockey Network, including right here at NewJerseyDevils.com. Puck drop is 7:08 p.m. ET.
The Maple Leafs struck first at 5:17 of the opening period. John Tavares tipped and redirected a puck in from the slot, with Rasmus Sandin and William Nylander recording the assists.
Frederik Gauthier put Toronto ahead by two at 9:10 of the first, unassisted.
Zach Hyman and Nylander scored the next two goals for Toronto, as the home team raced out to a 4-0 lead. Hyman's power-play tally happened with three seconds left in the first, while Nylander scored 2:12 into the second.
Everything was coming up blue.
Until Coleman stopped the bleeding, making it a 4-1 game at 6:56 of the second frame. The goal was a nice one, worthy of a highlight-reel and several replays on the big board.
Coleman spun fully around in front of the net, shielding the puck from the defender, before deftly burying it into the back of the net.
It was an opportunity for the Devils to push back.
But then, Auston Matthews responded for the Leafs, potting a goal from on the doorstep at 10:39 of the second, on the power play. The goal, which put Toronto up 5-1, prompted a change at goaltender for the Devils. Exit Louis Domingue, enter Cory Schneider.
Schneider was very solid in the beginning of his action, but Matthews managed to bury a one-timer past him at 3:58 of the third to extend the Leafs lead to 6-1.
Coleman potted his second of the night to make it 6-2 at 12:00 of the third, finishing off an odd-man rush with a beautiful snipe. Nikita Gusev and Will Butcher had the assists.
His third of the game came at 15:36 of the third and was more grit than finesse. Coleman hacked at a loose puck on the doorstep and got it past the goaltender. Butcher and Travis Zajac recorded the helpers.
"It's a little bitter-sweet, obviously," said Coleman. "It's not the game you want to score it in. But I'm the kind of guy, I'm never going to quit, I'm never going to give up. I told Travis when they got a four-goal lead that we're going to keep pushing. We made it a game but too little too late."
P.K. Subban made it interesting at 18:02 with a blast to make it 6-4, but Matthews completed his hat trick on the empty net 38 seconds later.
"Unfortunately, we didn't start on time for some reason," said Coleman. "They're too good of a team to give a period and a half headstart to, myself included. I thought it was a good second half of the game, we just didn't have it the first period and a half and you give them enough chances they're going to make you pay."
Jack Hughes left the game early with an illness.
The Devils will be off on Wednesday before returning to action against the Capitals on Thursday night. New Jersey beat Washington 5-1 just this past Saturday in D.C.