This was one to circle on the calendar: the Devils first trip to Toronto to visit the Maple Leafs and their new General Manager, Lou Lamoriello. And while the Devils played fairly well – their power play went 2-for-5 – they only came out with one point, losing in a shootout.
Cory Schneider, once again, was in net for the Devils. He made 36 stops, plus three in the shootout. The Devils were badly outshot 38 to 27 and Cory again kept the team in the game at times, despite one miscue. In goal for Toronto was the Illinois-born rookie Garret Sparks, who made 25 saves. Toronto has James Reimer on injured reserve and Jonathan Bernier trying to work out kinks in his game down with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL, so the rookie has been the only way to go for the Leafs and he has been great for them so far.
For the Devils, Travis Zajac is still out with injury and Eric Gelinas and Stefan Matteau were healthy scratches. Adam Henrique would leave the game with a lower body injury mid-game. He did not return to the bench. With Zajac out, Patrik Elias was switched over to center for this game.
The Devils, much like their last game, did not waste time getting on the board. Just 1:24 into the opening period, on the power play after Toronto’s Roman Polak had gone off for cross-checking, Lee Stempniak tipped in a John Moore slapshot from the point (fed by Elias). The Devils were up 1-0.
The Leafs tied things up at 14:13 when PA Parenteau tried to dump the puck in and it took a weird bounce just inside the blueline. Schneider was handcuffed by the bounce and it beat him, knotting things up at one. That was the miscue that I mentioned earlier, but overall, Cory played fantastic.
Toronto would take the lead when the Devils’ Jon Merrill (back in the lineup tonight) took a tripping call at 1:55 of the second. This set up a Leafs’ power play where Middletown, New Jersey-native James van Riemsdyk would find the back of the net, putting the Maple Leafs up 2-1.
Things would stay that way for the bulk of the period until Byron Forese of the Leafs went off for holding the stick against Mike Cammalleri. The Devils were on the power play again and the other New Jersey native player would tie the game for the Devils at 13:20 when Jacob Josefson and David Schlemko worked the puck around the perimeter of the Leafs’ zone. Schlemko passed to Kyle Palmieri along the near boards and he fired, beating Sparks to tie the game up 2-2.
And that was the scoring in regulation. The game passed into overtime where each side had some chances. Miscommunication between Andy Greene and Patrik Elias almost led to the OT winner for Toronto as the two veterans left the puck right in front of Cory, who bailed them out. With the game tied and overtime ending, the two teams were now heading to a shootout.
First up for Toronto was Parenteau. Cory stopped him and Stempniak was up first for the Devils. He too failed to put the puck in the net and it was on to round two. Both Peter Holland of the Leafs and the Devils’ Josefson missed their chances in that round. In the third round, Tyler Bozak put Toronto up and it was up to Cammalleri to continue things for the Devils. He cut in, faked and finally slid the puck five hole on Sparks to knot things up.
Headed to extra sessions in the shootout, van Riemsdyk and Elias both missed their chances in round four. Then, in the fifth round, Nazem Kadri would ultimately finish it for the Maple Leafs. He made a beautiful move, going backhand to forehand on Cory and slid the puck around Schneider’s right leg.
The game was up to David Schlemko, who also tried a nice move but simply ran out of room on Sparks. The Maple Leafs came away with the 3-2 victory and the Devils could only muster a point in Toronto.
Although the Devils were not able to beat their old boss and his new team, they will get a shot at Toronto coach Mike Babcock’s old team next: the Detroit Red Wings fly into town on Friday. The Devils will look to clip the Wings at Prudential Center with Detroit coming in red hot. How will the Devils respond to the loss in Toronto? Mike Cammalleri said in the postgame show that the team needs to work on their game 5-on-5, as they were pinned into their zone way too much at even strength. The next game will test the Devils and allow us to see how they can react to a tough loss.