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Elias scores 400th to help Devils defeat Maple Leafs

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils forward Patrik Elias has always considered himself a playmaker, but there's something to be said for scoring 400 goals in the NHL.

Elias became the 91st player in NHL history to reach 400 goals when he scored early in the second period of the Devils' 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Prudential Center on Friday.

"I'm proud of it, no question," Elias said. "I'm proud of doing it for one organization, this team, and I was fortunate to have a lot of guys contributing to it."

Elias scored 1:23 into the second to give New Jersey a 2-0 lead. It came 25 seconds after he hit the post on a rush. The goal was set up by Travis Zajac, who skated into the left circle before passing to Elias in the high slot.

"I think his trademark is that he's an all-purpose player, an all-situation player," Devils interim co-coach Lou Lamoriello said of Elias. "He has the highest hockey sense you can have, but he's a finisher too. You don't score 400 goals and not be considered a goal-scorer."

Cory Schneider made 33 saves, and Tuomo Ruutu, Steve Bernier and Jaromir Jagr scored for the Devils (21-22-9), who won three in a row for the first time since opening the season 3-0-0.

Toronto's Tyler Bozak scored his 15th goal of the season, first in 11 games, at 11:51 of the third period on a power play to make it 3-1. Phil Kessel skated down his right wing and took a wrist shot that deflected off the crossbar and left post before skittering to Bozak for the tip.

Jagr closed the scoring on an even-strength, empty-net goal while Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer was attempting to get to the bench for an extra attacker with 2:45 remaining. Jagr, with 716 goals, trails Phil Esposito by one for fifth in NHL history.

Schneider, who was making his NHL-leading 45th start, received a bit of luck on two attempts. Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson hit the crossbar with less than three minutes left in the first period, and Nazem Kadri hit the right post midway through the third.

The Devils, who have won five of six (5-0-1), play at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday before hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. Devils backup goalie Keith Kinkaid will start against the Canadiens.

Toronto (22-27-4), which has lost 11 in a row (0-10-1), is closing in on a Maple Leafs record for consecutive games without a win. Toronto went 15 games (11 losses, four ties) from Dec. 26 to Jan. 15, 1987-88. The Maple Leafs have been outscored 33-11 in regulation and overtime during this losing streak.

"This is tough; you always want to stay positive, but when things are going like this it's hard to stay positive," Bozak said. "We need everyone to be leaders and try to be as positive as we can to get out of this. Again, we got a lot of shots and lots of opportunities but their goalie played well."

Reimer, who hasn't won since a 33-save, 4-3 shootout victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 14, made 13 saves.

"I think whenever we make a mistake it ends up in the back of our net, but there are no excuses," Bozak said. "You can't lose 11 games in a row or whatever it is. We have to get out of it as a team."

The Devils took a 3-0 lead in the second period when Bernier scored his sixth goal in the past eight games at 13:31. Defenseman Adam Larsson, who is having his best statistical season since his rookie year in 2011-12, shot from the point and it deflected off the right skate of Bernier past Reimer. A short video review confirmed the goal.

"The second period we played awful; it was a pretty embarrassing display by us," Bozak said.

Ruutu opened the scoring when he backhanded an attempt off Reimer's left skate from the right post at 9:32 of the first period. Defenseman Mark Fraser took a shot from the left point that banked off the end boards to Ruutu near the goal line. It was Ruutu's first goal since Nov. 22, a span of 28 games.

Elias scored his 400th goal in his 1,197th NHL game. He has 605 assists and 1,005 points in 17 seasons.

"I think we were all waiting for [No. 400]," Schneider said. "I think every time he shot over the past few games everyone was hoping to see it, but when he hammered that one off the crossbar and came right back down and put the next one away, that's was cool. It's a great milestone; great feat for him."

Never did Elias feel he would be celebrating 400 goals with the same team.

"The number of goals is significant to me; I didn't feel like I would ever get that many," he said. "I never considered myself as a scorer. I was more of a passer, playmaker. But it's neat, especially doing it for one team."

Toronto has lost 25 of 31 games when they have allowed the first goal (6-22-3). The Maple Leafs, who have scored one or fewer goals in nine of the past 11, host the Oilers on Saturday and the New York Rangers on Tuesday.

"We have to battle as a team and get out of this," Bozak said. "Obviously when you lose that many in a row your confidence level isn't going to be high. You play your best hockey when you're confident, so we have to find a way to get a win and get that confidence back."

The Maple Leafs announced during the game that they traded forwards Carter Ashton and David Broll to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

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