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game recap

Maple Leafs tighten grip on third in Atlantic

Defeat Devils, extend advantage to three points

by Dave McCarthy / Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs extended their lead for third place in the Atlantic Division with a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.

William Nylander scored and had an assist, and Curtis McElhinney made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs (35-23-15), who lead the Boston Bruins by three points in the division. Boston lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3.

Toronto has won three straight games, including 5-2 at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, and is 7-1-1 in its past nine.


WATCH: All Devils vs. Maple Leafs highlights


"We just want to get in. I don't care when we peak or any of that stuff, I just want to get in the [Stanley Cup Playoffs] to give ourselves a chance," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We're playing better right now and finding a way to win games. Last year, I didn't look at the standings one time and now I look at it every single day, so obviously there must be a reason I'm looking at them."

The Devils (27-34-12) took a 1-0 lead 2:59 into the first period on their first shot. John Moore scored on a wrist shot from a bad angle that got by McElhinney.

The Maple Leafs took a 2-1 lead before the end of the period. Josh Leivo, playing his first game since being a healthy scratch in the previous 10, tapped a loose puck behind Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid at 5:46 to tie it 1-1. Nylander scored with 1:43 left to give Toronto the lead.

Video: NJD@TOR: Leivo scores, Nylander sets club record

James van Riemsdyk put in a rebound from a Mitchell Marner shot to make it 3-1 at 2:04 of the second period. 

"First period and second period, we weren't very sharp," Devils captain Andy Greene said. "We weren't playing with enough pace and enough speed. They took advantage of that, but I thought our third period was much better."

Moore scored his second at 9:04 of the third period on the power play to make it 3-2. The goal was upheld on review after the Maple Leafs challenged for goaltender interference. 

Connor Brown made it 4-2 when he scored an empty-net goal with 46 seconds left.

Video: NJD@TOR: Moore beats McElhinney five-hole


Goal of the game

Nylander scored his 21st goal of the season with a wrist shot high to Kinkaid's glove side after taking a pass from Auston Matthews. 

"Everybody knows he has unbelievable vision and skating, but he's got a pretty unbelievable release," Matthews said of Nylander. "I think you could definitely see that on his goal tonight."

Video: NJD@TOR: Nylander stickhandles and snipes top shelf


Save of the game

With 2:40 left in the third period and Toronto leading by one, McElhinney kicked out his right pad to stop Miles Wood, who shot after cutting in off the right wing. 


Highlight of the game

Marner took a pass from Tyler Bozak and shot from the right wing. Kinkaid kicked out a rebound with his right pad that van Riemsdyk put into an open net.

Marner, asked if he was trying to create a rebound on purpose, said, "Not really, no. It kind of just came to me quick, just wanted to get it on net. [James] went down the back and lucky enough it went right to him."

Video: NJD@TOR: van Riemsdyk goes to net, taps in rebound


Unsung performance of the game

Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly sprawled to break up a 2-on-1 when Taylor Hall tried to slide a pass to Kyle Palmieri at 6:30 of the first period. 


They said it

"I think we're just playing the way we want to. At the start of the year, we were playing the way we wanted to, but just at the end of games we stopped doing what we wanted to, and I think that's what's changed about this team. We're the same team for the full 60 minutes and that's what makes us dangerous." -- Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner


"Defending. Baseball, it's pitching and defense. Here, it's goaltending, defense, defending. I think the compete level in here, the skill level, there's plenty of that to go around. Everybody here works, but the way we defend, we're getting better and better." -- Maple Leafs forward Brian Boyle


Need to know

Nylander's assist on Leivo's goal extended his point streak to 10 games (three goals, eight assists) to set a Maple Leafs rookie record. Gus Bodnar (1943), Bob Nevin (1960) and Dan Daoust (1983) each had a nine-game streak. Nylander tied Daoust for the most power-play points by a Maple Leafs rookie (25). ... Marner's assist on van Riemsdyk's goal was his 40th of the season, tying Bodnar for most by a Maple Leafs rookie (1943-44). ... Bozak's assist (his 33rd) on van Riemsdyk's goal was his 50th point, surpassing his previous NHL high (2013-14; 2014-15).


What's next

Devils: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+2, FS-CR, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: At the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, MSG-B, NHL.TV)


Video: McElhinney, Nylander sharp as Leafs top Devils, 4-2

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