Prudential Center: The New Jersey Devils fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 at home in a high scoring final period. Auston Matthews' power play goal with 2:53 remaining gave Toronto the edge in Newark, New Jersey.
Tuesday Night’s Thriller
The Devils looked to gain an earlier lead in Tuesday night’s matchup between another top team in the Eastern Conference, firing shot after shot early in the first period. The Devil fell short to Toronto back in November 2-1, and the Devils had three goals disallowed which disappointed all Devil fans.
The Devils were unable to convert on their opportunities, as goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov held down the net for the Maple Leafs with 15 first period saves. He was a major factor in Toronto’s gritty win over the Devils, finishing with 30 outstanding saves.
In the final minutes of the first period, the Maple Leafs earned themselves their first powerplay of the night with 1:21 left. The Devils' power play defense has been very solid since the All-Star break, and they were able to continue that pattern, keeping Toronto scoreless after one period played.
After a slow start in the first period, Toronto's offense came alive early in the second period getting a few shots on goal in the opening minutes of the new period. Calle Jarnkrok scored the first goal of the night, earning his 14th goal of the season. This gave Toronto the first lead of the game with 12:30 to play in the second period.
Jack Hughes had the Devils' biggest opportunity in the early stages of the second period. This one-on-one opportunity was once again denied by Samsonov. They would later capitalize on their opportunities in the later stages of the second period. Jesper Boqvist had a shot on goal, and Erik Haula was able to put the puck in the net off the deflection for his fourth goal of the season. This tied the game up at one a piece before heading into the second intermission.
After the intermission and fresh ice on the rink, the Devils were unable to convert on their four-minute power play they were given during the final seconds of the second period. Momentums later, Toronto gave another power play to the Devils giving them an earlier opportunity for their first lead in the final period.
Toronto once again short-handed hoped to ice the man down, but Toronto's Mitchell Manur stole the puck and found himself one on one with Devil’s goalie Vitek Vanecek. He converted the one on one and scored the short handed goal. This gave Toronto their second lead of night and momentum during the final period.
The Devils did not panic since they still found themselves with a minute left in their power play opportunity. Dawson Mercer found Ondrej Palat right in front of the goal where he earned himself his eighth goal of the season and tied the game at 2 a piece with 14:00 left in the game. This powerplay goal was the only one for the Devils on their four power play chances.
This game became an instant thriller during the third period. The Devils looked to earn their first lead of the night and Haula delivered, scoring his second goal of the night. Palat found Haula in front of the net as he tapped the puck with one hand on his stick and it found its way past Samsonov, giving the Devils their first lead of the night with 10:58 left.
There was hope in the Prudential Center that the Devils would finish the job with an impressive comeback victory. This was spoiled when Michael Bunting’s snapshot found the back of the net, tying the game at three with 4:50 remaining
Matthews would later on score the game winning goal, giving Toronto an impressive victory over the hot Devils. Vanecek headed off the rink, and the Devils were unable to tie the game once again in the final minutes.