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game recap

Maple Leafs use early lead to defeat Devils

Score four goals, two on power play, in first period, then hold on for win

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs scored four goals in less than six minutes in the first period of a 4-2 win against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on Friday.

Toronto (18-12-8) is 6-0-1 on the road since Dec. 10 after going 2-6-5 in its first 13 road games this season. It also moved into a Stanley Cup Playoff position as the third-place team in the Atlantic Division because of the games played tiebreaker.

The Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators each have 44 points. Toronto has played one more game than Ottawa and three fewer games than Boston.

"I knew going the season that we would get better and better as the season has gone on; I think we have done that," Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk said. "Where that would leave us playoffs-wise and points-wise you never really know. There are lots of unknowns, but the guys that management has brought in have done a really good job and been key contributors. Now, we can't be satisfied here, we have to keep pushing and keep trying to get better because I think we have a lot of upside here."

 

WATCH: All Maple Leafs vs. Devils highlights

 

Nazem Kadri gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 9:26 of the first period with a power-play goal. Connor Brown scored Toronto's second shorthanded goal of the season at 13:17 when he took the puck from Devils goalie Cory Schneider and put it into the net.

Auston Matthews scored at 14:40 and a penalty was called on Devils defenseman Kyle Quincey after the puck went into the net. Tyler Bozak scored on the power play to make it 4-0 at 15:15.

Video: TOR@NJD: Kadri buries van Riemsdyk's rebound for PPG

Toronto is 10-for-25 on the power play in its past seven games. Matthews has 15 goals in the past 19 games, a stretch that started with two goals in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Devils (16-17-7) at Prudential Center on Nov. 23. Brown has a goal in three straight games.

Frederik Andersen made 27 of his 30 saves after Toronto had the four-goal lead.

"All those goals were ugly goals that were happening in front of the net," Matthews said. "Especially against a team like [the Devils], that's all they give you is those ugly goals. You have to get to the front of the net and we definitely did tonight."

Schneider allowed three goals on five shots and was replaced by Keith Kinkaid, who made eight saves. Toronto didn't have a shot on goal in the third period.

"You take pride in preparing and being there for your teammates and tonight I didn't give my team a chance to win," Schneider said.

PA Parenteau and Jon Merrill scored 55 seconds apart in the third period to make it 4-2 with 2:29 remaining. Schneider wondered if the game would have turned out differently had he not made the mistake on Brown's goal.

"I can't offer an excuse or anything like that," he said. "It was a bad play."

Video: TOR@NJD: Merrill catches Andersen off guard for goal

 
Goal of the game

Jake Gardiner's shot from the right point hit off of Zach Hyman and popped up in the air and went over Schneider. Matthews waited for it to come down low enough before knocking it into the net from his knees.

Video: TOR@NJD: Matthews bats puck out of midair to pad lead

 
Save of the game

This one goes to Maple Leafs defenseman Connor Carrick, who denied Devils defenseman Damon Severson of what looked like a sure goal at 11:13 of the second period. Adam Henrique got the puck in the slot to Severson for a one-timer, but Carrick got in the way.

Video: TOR@NJD: Carrick helps Andersen stone the Devils

 
Highlight of the game

With Toronto killing a penalty, Brown went in to forecheck, attacking Schneider, who was playing the puck. Schneider didn't play it well, allowing Brown to lift his stick, take the puck and score.

Video: TOR@NJD: Brown picks Schneider's pocket, scores SHG

 
Unsung performance of the game

Before Matthews scored, Hyman won a puck battle in the corner against Quincey to keep possession. He got to the net, stayed there and got the primary assist on Matthews' goal. He was then on the receiving end of Quincey's roughing minor that led to Bozak's goal.

Video: TOR@NJD: Bozak buries a loose puck at the doorstep

 
They said it

"We know what we are capable of, and that has been the goal since the start of the year to be in that mix, in that race for a playoff spot, and I definitely think we have the talent to do so." -- Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews

 

"We got ourselves in the hole. I think the thing that we can build on is we didn't drift and become individualistic and not play hard in the final 40 minutes of the game. We just weren't sharp enough offensively to get ourselves back in earlier than what we did." -- Devils coach John Hynes

 
Need to know

Devils captain Andy Greene missed the game with an arm injury, ending his consecutive games played streak at 350. Hynes said he won't know about Greene's availability for the game against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday until Greene arrives at Prudential Center.

 
What's next

Maple Leafs: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVA Sports, NHL.TV)

Devils: Host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, SN, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Four-goal 1st leads Maple Leafs past Devils, 4-2

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