Short a few key players, the Devils relied on their trademark to hand the Maple Leafs a 5-3 loss at Air Canada Centre.
New Jersey played a good old fashioned tight-checking and safe hockey game: The way you should play on the road.
In the end, it came down to some habits that lurked in the previous game for the Leafs, but without the scoring punch to match.
“Winning is sometimes good deodorant for the stink that’s getting into your game,” said Peter Holland. “Tonight, the stink was a little more prevalent.”
The top-line accounted for just three points. But the goal, in which all three players factored in, came with the game virtually out of reach with 35 seconds to go in regulation.
“I didn’t think our top line was very good,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. “And I think the minutes showed that.”
The JVR-Bozak-Kessel line played a little over 16 minutes a night, on par with the Winnik-Holland-Clarkson line.
The Leafs weren’t given any favours, only getting one power-play goal. But Nazem Kadri continued to show more signs of reaching his desire to be an all-around player, registering his first career shorthanded goal.
“We knew the game plan going in and I think we just turned the puck over one too many times and kind of fed their offence,” said Kadri. “We had opportunities to clinch or tie the game or take the lead but we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Devils outperformed the Maple Leafs in most aspects of the game. On a night where they were missing Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias, New Jersey dug deep and gritted out a win, which was rather deceptive, given their results previous to Thursday.
“I’ve been saying I like how we’ve been playing for five or six games," said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. “We haven’t got rewarded but we put in a workmanlike effort. I thought we came and played an honest game got a lead which was important for us, and played our game.”
The Leafs will aim to correct some of the issues that plagued them as the days go on. But that tight-checking game is ultimately where Toronto needs to get to toward the end of the season. Space will be limited as the season moves along, and the Devils dealt the Leafs a tough lesson on what that type of hockey is like to play against.
Notes: Kadri’s shorthanded goal was the Leafs’ sixth goal this season while a man down. That puts them alone in first in that department. Mike Santorelli had two points (one goal, one assist) extending his point-scoring streak to a career high five games (one goal, eight assists in that span). Joffrey Lupul extended his point scoring streak to three games (three goals, two assists) with an assist tonight. Lupul grabbed in points in just three games prior to his hand injury. The Leafs power-play has now registered a goal in the last three-games, matching the season high set twice before.