Video: NJD@TOR: van Riemsdyk fires home power-play goal
1. Leafs get on scoreboard first, but Devils answer back with two consecutive goals from son of Buds alumnus. Toronto was riding a three-game win streak heading into Wednesday's tilt against the unbeaten (2-0-0) Devils, and the Leafs took advantage of a power play early in the opening period to grab a 1-0 lead. The goal came via winger James van Riemsdyk, who netted his team-leading third goal of the season at 8:33 of the first.
However, New Jersey quickly returned fire, tying the game 34 seconds later on winger Miles Wood's first of the year. Wood - the son of former Leaf winger Randy Wood - struck again 1:38 after that, grabbing the puck at Toronto's blueline, breaking in alone on Buds goalie Frederik Andersen and giving the visitors a 2-1 lead at 10:45. The Buds' defensive performance has been uneven thus far this season, and the first half of the period was no different.
Video: NJD@TOR: Moore tips in Zaitsev's shot from the point
2. Toronto ties it on Moore deflection for veteran's second in as many games. The Leafs haven't lacked for offence through their first three games - their total of 19 goals was the best in the NHL for all teams who'd played that number of contests - and despite being down Wednesday, Toronto continued to pressure the Devils. It didn't take long for them to be rewarded for it, as centre Dominic Moore deflected a shot from blueliner Nikita Zaitsev past netminder Cory Schneider at the 13:33 mark for his second of the season.
The 37-year-old Moore was playing in his second game of the year as he alternates on Toronto's fourth line with fellow veteran pivot Eric Fehr, and Moore's speed and skill has proven to be an asset for head coach Mike Babcock. Moore had 11 goals with the New York Rangers last season and his career high is 18 with Tampa Bay in 2010-11, but on a deep Leafs roster, there's no pressure for him to generate offence. And that's usually beneficial to any player's production.
3. New Jersey regains lead on power play, adds to it with shorthanded marker. The NHL set new standards on a couple of fronts this season, and one in particular - a more stringent interpretation of the slashing penalty - continues to be an issue, not just for the Leafs, but the league in general. Eight slashing minors were assessed in Toronto's 4-3 overtime win over Chicago Monday, and against the Devils, three more slashing calls were made through the first half of the contest.
The third slashing minor was to van Riemsdyk at 8:15 of the middle frame, and the Devils capitalized on it, getting centre Pavel Zacha's first goal of the season at 9:58 to go ahead 3-2. Toronto had a golden opportunity to even the score six minutes later, when New Jersey took two minor penalties at the 14:44 mark - but winger Brian Gibbons scored just 10 seconds into the two-man-advange to give the visitors a 4-2 lead.
That development, along with Toronto's inability to score on the remaining 5-on-3 power play, left the Devils squarely in charge entering the final regulation period. Any time you allow a team to score a power play and shorthanded goal in the same period, you're flirting with danger, and that was the Leafs' key issue on this night.
Video: NJD@TOR: Matthews pots Nylander's quick pass for PPG
4. Leafs come close to pulling within a goal, but instead, Devils extend lead early in third. The Buds outshot the Devils 30-22 through the first 40 minutes of action, began the third period with energy and nearly scored their third of the night when centre Nazem Kadri came extremely close to registering his third of the year. But Kadri's shot hit the post, and a short time later, New Jersey made it a three-goal lead on centre Blake Coleman's first of the season at 3:35. With an elite goaltender like Schneider patrolling the pipes, overcoming a three-goal advantage is a tall order. And the crowd of 19,103 at the ACC sensed the difficulty ahead for the Buds. But Toronto still had nearly a full period to play to try and get back into the game.
5. Buds can't solve Schneider enough times to force overtime, drop first game of season. They didn't lack for chances - and indeed, they got eight power plays, including a 5-on-3 man advantage that led to centre Auston Matthews' third goal of the year - but the Leafs couldn't solve Schneider enough times in the final frame to extend the game to an overtime period, and Zacha added his second of the game for the final goal of the night.
Toronto dropped its first contest of the season and will have a couple of days to tighten up its defensive approach before travelling to Montreal to square off against the arch-rival Canadiens Saturday. Although Montreal has struggled thus far (posting a 1-3-0 mark), they'll very likely be focused and prepared for the Leafs - and after facing a dialled-in Schneider, Toronto's task won't get any easier when they try and beat star netminder Carey Price. That's all the more reason why their play in their own zone needs to improve, and Leafs Nation can bet Babcock and his staff will be stressing that in practices and team meetings before Saturday's showdown.