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Five Takeaways - Leafs vs. Devils - 11/16/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 1-0 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils Thursday at Air Canada Centre:

by Adam Proteau Proteautype / MapleLeafs.com

1. Leafs, Devils employ high-speed attack against each other in opening frame, but Andersen, Schneider keep game scoreless. The Leafs were seeking to avenge a 6-3 loss to New Jersey at the ACC Oct. 11, and they came out of the dressing room Thursday focused and well-structured, particularly in their own zone. Toronto outshot the Devils 12-10 in the first 20 minutes of action and nearly scored on a few occasions, but netminder Cory Schneider made some outstanding stops; and at the other end, Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen made a few terrific saves to keep the score knotted at 0-0 heading into the second period.
 

2. Defensive battle continues in second - and though Leafs are outshot, Toronto has better scoring chances. The teams continued their high-speed duel in the middle frame, but both sides did a solid job of preventing secondary scoring chances and clogging up scoring lanes. As a result, the shots-on-net totals in the period were far from large - Toronto managed just three shots, while New Jersey had 10 - but the Leafs had the better chances. They came within a hair's breadth of generating the night's first goal a couple more times, but Schneider was sharp; meanwhile, Andersen was structurally sound and gave up few rebounds to match Schneider's prowess.

All-in-all, this showdown was played along the boards and in the neutral zone for much of the time, but the Leafs were on their defensive game. Toronto has sharpened up in that area of late, and it helped them in their battle against a team that was on a two-game win streak heading into the night's action.

3. First half of third period follows same pattern as first two: Devils have more shots, but Leafs come close to scoring game's first goal. New Jersey had twice as many shots as the Leafs did in the first 10 minutes of the third frame - outshooting them 8-4 - but again, Toronto generated higher-quality scoring chances. Centre Tyler Bozak had one of them early in the period, while winger Connor Brown had a partial breakaway he couldn't get proper position on and unload a full-strength shot.

Both teams clearly liked the way they played through the first two periods, because they played a near-exact version of their game in the third. And through the first 60 minutes of action, you couldn't argue, as neither side could get that all-important goal and the game extended to overtime.


4. Andersen, penalty kill come up big in overtime. The Devils finished regulation time with 34 shots (to Toronto's 23), but 3-on-3 overtime presented Toronto with a golden opportunity to beat Schneider and avoid a shootout. However, blueliner Jake Gardiner was called for interference 42 seconds into the extra frame, and that meant the game shifted to 4-on-3 action in favor of the visitors.

Fortunately for Leafs Nation, Andersen was as dialled-in as he was all night, and Toronto's penalty-killers did their job for the third time in the game. Andersen made another game-saving stop with 30 seconds left (and the play back to 3-on-3), in one of his best outings of the season. The veteran turned aside 41 of 42 Devils shots and won his 11th game of the season, and his confidence is cresting.

5. Nylander nets game-winner in final seconds of OT to continue Leafs' win streak.
It looked as if the game would go to a shootout, but with 2.2 seconds remaining, winger William Nylander curled out from the Devils' corner with the puck, moved to the center of the ice, and fired a shot that beat Schneider to give Toronto their fifth win in a row.

It wasn't a game filled with highlight-reel goals, but it was a grind-out contest the Leafs were opportunistic in and deserved to win. They're headed to Montreal to face off with the Canadiens Saturday, and they're doing so feeling good about their all-around game.

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