Devils stay unbeaten with 6-3 win over Maple Leafs
TORONTO — The New Jersey Devils pushed their way into the early-season spotlight that was focused on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha each notching two goals and Brian Gibbons scoring while killing off a two-man disadvantage, the Devils defeated the Maple Leafs 6-3 on Wednesday night in a battle of previously unbeaten teams.
Goaltender Cory Schneider made 47 saves for the Devils (3-0-0).
“It’s important for us to come in and play a team like this and find a way to win the game,” New Jersey coach John Hynes said. “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned from this game even though we won it. It’s been a different game than our first two. I think it’s a confidence-builder.”
The Maple Leafs (3-1-0) attracted plenty of attention after making the playoffs last season and scoring 19 goals in winning their first three games this season. The Devils are coming off a season when they failed to reach the playoffs.
“I didn’t think we worked,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “I thought the other team was good. I thought they skated, I thought they skated us into the ground and won all the stick battles right from the get-go.
“It was 2-2 after one (period), but that flattered us at the time. We never had any time engaged. We talked quite a bit about this game coming up and how it was going to be.
“That’s exactly what I expected, but I expected us to compete, and that didn’t happen. Hockey is fair, you get what you deserve, and that’s what we deserved tonight.”
Blake Coleman added a goal for the Devils, and Will Butcher and Adam Henrique had two assists apiece.
James van Riemsdyk, Dominic Moore and Auston Matthews scored for Toronto.
Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots while Schneider was being kept busy all night at the other end.
“They’re going to get looks,” Schneider said. “They’re going find ways and beat you one-on-one sometimes. It’s going to happen, you’re going to have breakdowns.
“I thought we didn’t panic too much. We held our ground and blocked shots when we needed to block them. When there were opportunities for me to see it, the guys let me see it.
“Tried to get as many rebounds as I could, but when I did give them up, (my teammates) got them out of there pretty quick.”
The Maple Leafs took the lead at 8:33 of the first period when van Riemsdyk scored his third goal of the season from the side of the net during a power play.
The Devils countered 34 seconds later with Wood’s deflection of Steven Santini’s shot from above the right circle.
Wood scored his second goal of the season 1:38 later after splitting the defense.
“I think we missed assignments here and there,” Andersen said. “But I think it’s on everyone to look at themselves and improve what we’ve been doing lately. I think today showed the talent won’t always make up for the mistakes we make.
“Today we ran into a hot goalie and we couldn’t score that many goals. To win, we have to defend better.”
Toronto tied the score at 13:33 of the first period on the second goal of the season by Moore on a deflection of Nikita Zaitsev’s shot.
Zacha scored from the slot on a power play at 9:58 of the second period to give New Jersey a 3-2 lead. Jesper Bratt made the pass from the end boards. The assist gave him six points in his first three NHL games, including three goals.
Gibbons gave the Devils a 4-2 lead while the Maple Leafs had a five-on-three power play with his second goal of the season. The Devils killed off both penalties.
“That’s a big one,” Hynes said. “That’s a point in the game where it can go either way. They have a potent power play, so it was nice to at least start the kill that way, and I thought that it re-energized our team a little bit more.”
Henrique set up the play with his rush.
“Henrique did a great job, drew two men to him and Gibby misfired his shot, but it went in,” Wood said.
Coleman scored his first goal of the season, unassisted, at 3:35 of the third period.
Matthews scored his third goal of the season when the Maple Leafs again had a two-man advantage at 13:34 of the third.
Zacha scored his second of the season at 17:21 of the third period.
NOTES: New Jersey RW Kyle Palmieri (lower-body injury) returned to the lineup. He was injured Saturday and did not play Monday. ... Devils RW Drew Stafford (lower-body injury) missed his second consecutive game after being injured Saturday. ... Toronto D Connor Carrick (upper-body injury) missed his second game in a row. ... Maple Leafs C Dominic Moore returned to the lineup with C Eric Fehr scratched for the game. ... The Devils play host to the Washington Capitals on Friday. The Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.