The Toronto Maple Leafs look poised to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in nine years. The New Jersey Devils look like they will miss them for the second time in three seasons.
Toronto got goals from Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak, and James Reimer made 27 saves, to defeat New Jersey 2-1 Saturday night at Prudential Center.
"It was a big game for us …," Reimer said. "It kind of feels like a playoff game, so it was good for us to get the win. I thought the boys played great."
The Maple Leafs won for the fourth time in five games and remain on track for their first postseason appearance since 2004.
"You want to beat the teams that are trying to catch you and create a little more gap," Bozak said. "We're happy with the win but we have a couple of more big games coming up with the [New York Rangers] and the Devils again, so it's going to be key for us to get a few more wins and keep this thing going."
The Devils are winless in six games after losing forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a shoulder injury March 23 (0-3-3). From seventh place on that date, four points clear of ninth, they have fallen out three points out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference.
"We're repeating ourselves here for the past few games," Devils forward Patrik Elias said. "You try to stay up, and again the work ethic was there. We created a lot of good chances. It's tough to win with one or not scoring any goals."
David Clarkson got one in the third period to end New Jersey's scoreless streak at 143:36. The Devils were shut out 1-0 at the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
They were 0-for-5 on the power play Saturday, including a first-period 5-on-3 that lasted for 1:04.
"Tonight, for me, it's the power play," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've got to cash in on the power play tonight. That's probably our first 5-on-3 in two months; you've got to make hay this time of year when you get the table set like that for you."
Toronto had its three-game winning streak snapped with a 5-3 home to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, but wasted little time taking a lead Saturday.
Komarov, playing his first game since March 21, scored 3:49 into the game when he deflected a shot from teammate Mark Fraser past Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Fraser was able to handle a pass right at the blue line and his shot found Komarov in the left circle.
Bozak converted a breakaway at 8:02 of the third period. He took a breakout pass from Phil Kessel at center ice and avoided the chasing defense of Peter Harrold. Bozak's shot popped up and over Brodeur, and Harrold missed a baseball swing trying to keep the airborne puck out of the net.
"We just seem to be on the other end of the bounces," Clarkson said. "That's part of sports, that's what happens."
Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky led a rush up ice and his pass at the offensive blue line found Clarkson charging toward the circles, from where his shot trickled through Reimer with 8:23 left to play.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Devils made the playoffs every season since 1996-97 before failing to do so in 2010-11. They play at the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
"There's no time to start doubting ourselves," said Steve Sullivan, who debuted for the Devils after a trade from the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday. "It's a sprint to the finish. We've got to make sure that we get back on the horse tomorrow night and put the same effort on and get a win."
Toronto played without forward Joffrey Lupul, who has an upper-body injury. He could miss a home-and-home against the Rangers on Monday and Wednesday.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report