New Jersey Devils end Leafs' perfect start to the season
Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen reacts after giving up a goal during third period NHL hockey action against the New Jersey Devils in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, October 11, 2017 11:14PM EDT
TORONTO - Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each scored twice and New Jersey added a rare 3-on-5 goal as the unbeaten Devils defeated Toronto 6-3 Wednesday night to end the Maple Leafs' perfect start to the NHL season.
New Jersey finished 27th in the league last season, some 25 points behind Toronto. But the Leafs had their hands full with the speedy Devils, who look like a different outfit this season thanks to an influx of young talent.
Tied 2-2 after 20 minutes, New Jersey (3-0-0) pulled ahead with a pair in the second period despite being outshot 17-12.
A key moment came late in the period with the Devils taking two minors on the same play. Rather than Toronto taking advantage, New Jersey killed off the penalties and scored shorthanded at 14:54 for a 4-2 lead.
Jake Gardiner was unable to keep the puck in at the New Jersey blue line and two Devils broke in. William Nylander's backcheck swept the puck off Adam Henrique's stick but the puck unfortunately went straight off goalie Frederik Andersen to Brian Gibbons in front and the Devils winger made no mistake.
Blake Coleman added an insurance goal early in the third.
Auston Matthews, with his third of the season, cut the deficit to 5-3 with 6:26 remaining and the Leafs on a two-man advantage. But despite a hefty edge in shots on goal, the Toronto comeback fell short and Zacha rubbed salt in the wound with a late tipped goal.
James van Riemsdyk and Dominic Moore also scored for Toronto (3-1-0) before 19,103 at the Air Canada Centre.
New Jersey got a sterling performance in goal from Cory Schneider who faced 50 shots. It's the Devils' first 3-0-0 start since 2014-15.
Both teams had good scoring chances early but Andersen and Schneider held firm. Then the floodgates opened with four goals in five minutes in a back-and-forth first period.
Van Riemsdyk opened the scoring on the power play at 8:33, stuffing the puck through Schneider at 8:33. New Jersey answered 34 seconds later when Wood tipped in a Steven Santini shot from the point. Wood scored again 1:38 later, taking advantage of a handling error by Calle Rosen before ripping a shot past Andersen.
Moore tied it up at 2-2 at 13:33, redirecting a Nikita Zaitsev shot as New Jersey's Marcus Johansson, serving Stefan Noesen's instigating penalty, exited the penalty box.
Toronto came close early in the second as an Andreas Borgman shot, through traffic, hit the goalpost. At the other end, Andersen made several big stops.
New Jersey went ahead 3-2 at 9:58 of the second on the power play with rookie Jesper Bratt finding Zacha left alone in front of goal to complete a sweet tic-tac-toe passing sequence. Van Riemsdyk was in the box for slashing.
Toronto came into the contest having scored 19 goals through its first three games to start the season, second highest in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 1917-18 team scored 27.
Leafs coach Mike Babcock believes defences will soon catch up with the offence.
"Score the goals while you can because they go away fast," he said in his morning availability just hours before the Devils proved him right.
The game featured the top overall picks in the last two drafts: Toronto's Matthews (2016) and New Jersey's Nico Hischier (2017).
Bratt has hogged most of the early Devils headlines and came as advertised - quick and shifty.
The 19-year-old Swede, taken in the sixth round (162nd overall) in 2016, is the first player in franchise history (and one of just five NHLers in the past 17 seasons) to notch five points (three goals, two assists) in his first two NHL games.
His NHL account now stands at six points.
Hischier, an 18-year-old Swiss, had one assist in his first two games. Defenceman Will Butcher, winner of the Hobey Baker Award as U.S. college hockey player of the year, is another Devils rookie making an impression after setting a franchise mark with three points in his debut.
Butcher added two assists Wednesday.
The game was the 6,500th in Maple Leafs franchise history. Toronto's regular-season record now stands at 2,837-2,737-783-143.