How would the Devils follow up their performance from last night after the 7-4 lambasting that they gave the Rangers?
Not with the output that they would have preferred, most would assume.
They traveled up to Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, gave up two shorthanded goals and lost 3-2 to the Maple Leafs in the second half of a back-to-back.
This continues the Devils’ run of futility in the country of Canada. They have still only won a single game north of the border. That was a 7-1 victory back on February 8 at Montreal. It also completes the season sweep by the Leafs over the Devils in their three meetings.
The Devils made a few changes to their lineup along with callups from AHL Utica.
Colton White and Ty Smith were healthy scratches on the blue line with Mason Geertsen slotting out up front. Pavel Zacha remains out fighting an injury suffered during the road trip west last week.
In Smith’s place was Kevin Bahl on defense (he paired with PK Subban on the third pairing) while AJ Greer slotted in up front for Geertsen. Greer played on the fourth line centered by Michael McLeod with Nathan Bastian on the right wing and Greer on the left side.
For both Bahl and Greer, they were marking their second stints with the big club this season. Greer’s last NHL tenure ended with an injury suffered at the Islanders in December.
In addition to that, newly acquired goaltender Andrew Hammond joined the team today officially. He will likely not play until next week.
In the meantime, it was back to Nico Daws between the pipes for the Devils tonight, making his second straight start following a night off last weekend in Edmonton.
Daws stopped 28 of the Leafs’ 31 total shots for a .903 save percentage for the game. He stopped both Toronto power play shots as the Maple Leafs finished 0-for-3 on the man advantage. At even strength, he was equal to 25 of 26 Toronto shots. Where the Devils suffered was when you factor in that Daws let in two of the three shorthanded shots that the Leafs took.
For the Leafs, Petr Mrazek was their guy. He made 20 saves on 22 total New Jersey shooting attempts for a .909 save percentage. He stopped the Devils’ one lone shorthanded chance and two of their three power play shots. On power play chances, the Devils went 1-for-4 as a team. Mrazek made 17 saves against 18 shots at five-on-five play.
Of note from last night was not just Jack Hughes becoming a 20-goal scorer for the first time in his NHL career, but also Yegor Sharangovich matching his goal total for his rookie year with his 16th goal.
The Maple Leafs were welcoming some trade deadline pickups with defenseman Mark Giordano making his Toronto debut after being acquired from the Seattle Kraken on Monday. Center Colin Blackwell, also picked up from Seattle, was in the Leafs’ lineup as well.
Another debut for the Leafs were their “Next Gen” uniforms designed by Justin Bieber of all people. They are basically black Maple Leafs jerseys with black where the blue would be and blue where the white striping would be and they are… not too bad looking, actually. A bit of a departure from what you would expect from the Leafs, but not overly terrible on television. Not too sure how they came across in person, however.
Following a first period that saw no scoring or penalties and the Maple Leafs outshooting the Devils 11-3, we got set for the second.
The Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead early in the second period on the power play.
After New Jersey’s Bahl had been penalized for slashing Ilya Mikheyev 1:42 into the new frame and the Devils killed that off – limited Toronto’s number one ranked power play – it was time for the Devils to go to work.
At 4:38 gone by, Pierre Engvall was called for tripping Jonas Siegenthaler and the Devils were up a man.
About 23 seconds into the 5-on-4, Nico Hischier was able to keep the play alive in the Toronto zone. He got it to Jesper Bratt, who used his body to shield the puck in the slot and make a pass to Damon Severson, who had moved down low. Severson attemped to pass across ice to Hughes, but Leafs defenseman Ilya Lyubushkin went down to block and Severson’s pass deflected off of him and past Mrazek to make it 1-0 New Jersey.
With that goal, Severson now has 49 career goals, allowing him to pass Andy Greene on the Devils all-time defensemen goal scoring list. Congratulations to him as he has been a solid player for years for the Devils and it’s nice to see him get rewarded for it statistically.
In addition to that, this was the first time the Devils had scored the first goal of the game in eight games.
The Devils found themselves back on the power play at the 11:49 gone by mark of the second period when Auston Matthews was given a hooking minor against Hischier.
While Toronto is mostly known for its power play proficiency across the league, it was their penalty kill that came up big tonight.
At the 12:30 mark, Yegor Sharangovich, with the Devils on the man advantage, was stripped of the puck at the Leafs’ blue line by Alex Kerfoot. Kerfoot gave to Ilya Mikheyev, who was off on his way. He cut in one-on-one on Daws and beat him to tie the game at 1-1.
To add insult to injury, the Leafs ended up killing off the rest of the penalty as well.
That shorty for Toronto would, however, kick off a flurry of goals for both teams.
At the 13:56 mark, Hischier gave New Jersey back the lead just after that penalty was up.
Dougie Hamilton made a one-touch pass to Jack Hughes at the side of the Leafs net. This looked like a pure slam dunk for Hughes. Mrazek stopped him, however, and Hischier crashed in, cleaning up the rebound and sweeping it into the Toronto net to make it 2-1 Devils.
But the Devils were not to take that lead into the third period.
About a minute after the Hischier goal, at 14:54 gone by, Michael Bunting made a pass behind the Devils net to Matthews. Matthews then centered to Mitch Marner who snapped off a shot that eluded Daws to tie the game up at two apiece.
And that was where we were going into the final frame – tied as we were at the end of the first.
The third period began with Giordano being called for a trip to seemingly put New Jersey on the power play again.
Replay, however, initiated by the officials, found that Giordano had actually never touched the Devils player with his stick or any other part of his body. With the Devils puck carrier simply losing an edge. Very quickly, Giordano was waved out of the penalty box and the teams were playing at five-on-five.
The third period featured no scoring for the majority of it, but there was plenty of high-energy, up tempo hockey from both teams.
Then it happened.
At the 12:23 mark of the period, Mikheyev hit Andreas Johnsson with a high stick. Johnsson was cut and Mikheyev was assessed a double minor to put the Devils on the power play for four minutes.
After the Leafs killed off the first two minutes, the Devils were beginning to get a bit frustrated.
At 15:18 gone by in the period – nearly three minutes into the double minor – three Devils players were caught deep in the Toronto zone. Pierre Engvall grabbed the puck and was off on a 2-on-1 with Hamilton back as the Devils’ defender and Hischier aggressively backchecking on the second Leaf.
Engvall entered the Devils zone on his own and waited for Hamilton to go down too early trying to take away the pass. He then calmly skated around the downed Hamilton and beat Daws one-on-one.
That second shorthanded goal of the evening given up by the Devils (their tenth and eleventh shorties allowed this season – leading the league in that… not so good category) gave the Maple Leafs a 3-2 lead and came from Engvall unassisted.
Toronto killed the rest of that penalty and would, indeed, go on their own 5-on-4 at 15:55 when Hamilton was called for tripping David Kampf.
Since the end of the double minor overlapped with that power play, there was 28 seconds of 4-on-4 before the Leafs power play.
The Devils killed that off as well to hold Toronto’s power play in check for the night and would pull Daws with about 1:30 or so remaining in regulation. But they never got the score tied.
Our final score was 3-2 and it was the inefficiency of the Devils’ power play to defend rather than score that did them in.
Team stats saw the Leafs outshoot the Devils 31 to 22. The Devils did not do well in the faceoff circle, winning just 35-percent of the game’s draws. Hughes won 63-percent of his personal faceoffs to lead the Devils centers.
Team penalty minutes saw the Devils accumulate six minutes while the Leafs had eight minutes. The Devils played the more physical game with 33 hits to the Maple Leafs’ 28. Blocked shots had the Leafs at 18 and the Devils registering seven. Team giveaways had the Devils finish with seven to the Maple Leafs’ nine.
After last night’s offensive explosion for New Jersey, only Hischier registered a multi-point night with two points (one goal and one assist).
Severson led all Devils skaters in ice time with 28:13 which included 4:27 on the power play and 4:06 on the penalty kill. Those special team times are tops amongst Devils defensemen.
Hischier led the forwards with 22:46 of total time on ice which featured 4:37 on the PP and 2:32 on the PK. Only Mikey McLeod logged more shorthanded time with 2:37 out of his 9:06 of total time on ice.
Hughes’ five shots led in that category, edging out Bratt’s four. Siegenthaler registered five hits – leading there. Siegenthaler had the most blocked shots amongst Devils skaters with two. Personal turnovers were led by Jimmy Vesey, Bratt, Hughes, Hamilton, Severson and Siegenthaler who each had one. Personal takeaways saw Sharangovich led with three, just ahead of Vesey’s two.
Next up, the Devils will continue their short road trip as they return to the United States to play the Washington Capitals in DC at 7 PM on Saturday night.
That game will be shown on MSG+ and will be the beginning of another back-to-back for the weekend.
We will have coverage of that game for you right here after the conclusion.
Until then, enjoy the rest of your week everyone!