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Depleted Devils defeat Maple Leafs

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The New Jersey Devils knew it was going to take a monumental effort to win Thursday, and that's exactly what they produced.

With seven regulars out of the lineup, the Devils defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at Air Canada Centre.

New Jersey (10-12-4) played without forward Jaromir Jagr, their top scorer with 15 points, who was knocked out of the game Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and missed this game with the flu, as did defenseman Adam Larsson.

Also out were forwards Patrik Elias (lower body), Martin Havlat (lower body), Travis Zajac (lower body), Ryane Clowe (head), and defenseman Bryce Salvador (lower body).

Asked if it was the gutsiest performance the Devils have produced this season, goaltender Cory Schneider said, "I absolutely think so. We talked about how the last two games we should have and could have gotten points and tonight it really came together. We did a great job of keeping them back and taking advantage of our opportunities."

New Jersey 1-0 lost to the Penguins and 3-1 to the New York Islanders on Saturday.

Schneider said there were a couple of things at the top of the Devils' mind at the start of the game with so many key players missing.

"You have to play smart and you have to execute," Schneider said. "We got pucks out and didn't try to get too fancy or too cute. We didn't over-handle the puck. Instead we chipped it out and got it in deep in their end. We felt if we executed our game we would get some chances, and another big part of tonight is we were able to finish."

New Jersey scored first on a power-play goal by defenseman Eric Gelinas, his third of the season. With Toronto defenseman Cody Franson in the penalty box for interference, Gelinas took a shot from the left point that went through a crowd of players and seemed to dip before beating Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier at 4:53 of the first period.

Toronto right wing Mike Santorelli, who entered the game with seven assists in his past four games, tied it 1-1 at 5:37 of the second period. Left wing Joffrey Lupul carried the puck around the New Jersey net and passed to defenseman Jake Gardiner at the left point. Gardiner slid toward the middle of the ice and passed back to Lupul, who had moved out to the blue line. Lupul took a long shot that Santorelli tipped past Schneider for his fourth goal of the season.

Stephen Gionta restored New Jersey's lead 2:23 later when he got the puck in the slot and slipped a shot between Bernier's legs for his first goal of the season. Gionta injured his foot Tuesday in Pittsburgh and was a game-time decision.

With Franson in the penalty box again, Toronto's Nazem Kadri scored the first shorthanded goal of his NHL career to make it 2-2 at 11:14. Kadri broke in on the right wing and took a shot that Schneider stopped. The rebound went to New Jersey defenseman Seth Helgeson, but Kadri lifted his stick, took the puck and scored his seventh of the season.

With the Devils on the power play and 21 seconds remaining in a boarding penalty to Lupul, Devils coach Peter DeBoer called a timeout. The Devils possessed the puck off the draw, and after Gelinas shot wide, Mike Cammalleri got the carom off the end boards and snapped it past Bernier at 16:48.

Steve Bernier increased the lead to 4-2 at 6:12 of the third period when he jammed home a rebound for his second of the season. Adam Henrique made it 5-2 with his seventh at 11:58.

Cammalleri and Henrique each tied Jagr at 15 points.

"I like how we have been playing for five or six games, but we haven't been getting rewarded," DeBoer said. "We put in a workmanlike effort. I thought we came and played an honest game. We got a lead which was important and then we played our game."

Toronto's Phil Kessel scored a power-play goal at 19:26 with New Jersey's Tuomo Ruutu in the penalty box and Bernier on the bench for an extra attacker.

The Maple Leafs (13-9-3) had a four-game home winning streak end.

Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was not surprised at the Maple Leafs' performance based on what he saw in a 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.

"The last game we played pretty sloppy and I think that just seemed to carry over into this game," Carlyle said. "Yeah, we won and got points the other night, but as we stated, we weren't happy with the sloppiness. My message was whatever we did today to prepare for this game, don't do it again."

Carlyle said regardless of the opposition's injury status, teams have to always be prepared to play at the NHL level.

"It should be like any other competition that you are going to meet," Carlyle said. "Plain and simple I thought we got outworked tonight. They did the simple things: put the puck in and forechecked."

Carlyle also said the Devils controlled the game physically. After the first period, New Jersey led 22-8 in hits, and it was 39-22 after two. By game's end, the Devils held a 50-36 edge.

"They were physically involved in the game to a much higher level than we were," Carlyle said.

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