Skip to Main Content

Leafs beat Devils 4-3 in shootout

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK, N.J. -- Toronto coach Randy Carlyle wants his team to play with passion and pride. He wants his team to skate hard and follow the defensive principles he's constantly talking about, constantly trying to instill.

For one night at least, Carlyle saw enough of that in his team to make two points out of it.

Pretty it was not, but the Maple Leafs survived for a 4-3 shootout win over the Devils on Friday at Prudential Center despite blowing a pair of two-goal leads and managing only 17 shots on goal, including just three in the third period and none in overtime.

A 43-save performance in net from James Reimer led to some sweet winning shootout moves by Tyler Bozak, Tim Connolly and Nazem Kadri to help the Leafs stop a two-game losing streak. After giving up shootout goals to Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, Reimer made a pad save on Patrik Elias that gave Kadri a chance to win it with a deke that nearly brought Devils goalie Martin Brodeur out of his skates.

The Devils are still firmly tucked into sixth place in the Eastern Conference while the Leafs are pretty much out of it down in 12th.

"We're a hockey club that is still trying to find our way," Carlyle said. "We have got to string some consistency together. I wouldn't say tonight is a tape that we're going to frame or anything."

Nor should they.

The Leafs couldn't hold a two-goal lead in the final 10 minutes of regulation, and they were badly outplayed and outshot (18-7) in the first period. If it wasn't for Reimer, they could have been facing another blowout loss similar to the ones against Boston (8-0) and the Islanders (5-2) earlier this week.

"I just tried to play big and simple and solid," Reimer said. "I held my crease and tried to find the puck when I could, not make an educated guess on where it was going."

Toronto was much better in the second period, but then again the Devils were much worse. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer told his team between the first and second that it needed to stay the course and keep putting pucks toward the net.

"We didn't do anything of that," DeBoer said.

Bozak scored at 13:47 of the second and Kadri, who was recalled on an emergency basis Thursday, deflected Jake Gardiner's point shot past Brodeur 69 seconds later to give the Leafs a 2-0 lead. Ryan Hamilton, who also came up with Kadri on an emergency basis, assisted on the second goal for his first NHL point in his first NHL game.

However, just 63 seconds before the intermission, the Devils got one back. Alexei Ponikarovsky drove wide of the net to set up Jacob Josefson for his first goal of the season.

The goal didn't change DeBoer's mind. He shuffled his forward lines for the third period and the changes worked, but not before David Steckel gave Toronto its second two-goal cushion with 10:35 left in regulation.

The Devils, who had scored just five goals in their five previous games, finally busted their offensive slump in the third period on goals by Parise and Adam Henrique over the final 9:03. It was Parise's first goal in six games and Henrique's first in 18.

They continued to press hard for the winner before the end of regulation, but never got it. New Jersey outshot Toronto 4-0 in overtime but still the game went to a shootout.

Reimer was good, and his defensemen cleaned up the areas in front of him.

"You bear down," Reimer said. "You believe. We knew if we stuck with it good things would happen. It went to a shootout and sure enough, when it's a shootout anything can happen."

For Brodeur, anything did happen.

He faced three guys in Bozak, Connolly and Kadri that he had no book on. That's rare for Brodeur, who usually has a good study on most of the shooters in the NHL. The difference Friday was that Bozak and Kadri each had only one prior shootout attempt this season and Connolly had none. Brodeur wasn't expecting to see any of them.

"I was expecting (Phil) Kessel," Brodeur said of the Leafs' top scorer, who has taken a team-high seven shootout attempts this season and 50 in his career. "I don't look at who is coming, but every time I popped my head up it wasn't Kessel, and I was like, 'That's weird.' It worked for them."

Brodeur said if he had any idea of what kind of move Kadri was capable of he probably would have held his ground and gave him a poke check. Instead, Kadri made a deke, went right around Brodeur, and stuffed the puck inside the left post to win the game.

"When he came so close to me, he turned on a dime and went right around me," Brodeur said. "You've got to give him credit."

But the Devils didn't seem in the mood to give the Leafs too much credit. They were instead looking at their dominance in the first and third periods, their 46 shots on goal, and their three goals. They came to the conclusion that they should have taken two points off the struggling Leafs on Friday.

"We played well offensively. We had a lot of quality chances, a lot of pucks on net," Brodeur said. "A lot of the things we worked on (Thursday) in practice and talked about all day (Friday) -- we did it right…We should have won that game."

They didn't because their second period was forgettable, because they didn't play a full 60 minutes.

"We can't have that kind of lapse against Pittsburgh (on Sunday)," Brodeur said. "We just played them. We know what kind of offense they have."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
View More