Nylander’s goal in OT lifts Maple Leafs over Devils
TORONTO — The New Jersey Devils feel they did just about everything right. They limited the Toronto Maple Leafs’ scoring chances. They had twice the number of shots on goal.
The one thing the Devils could not do, however, was score.
The Maple Leafs did find a way to put the puck in the net Thursday night when William Nylander scored his fourth goal of the season with 2.2 seconds left in overtime.
The 1-0 win for the Maple Leafs (13-7-0) was their fifth straight victory, the past four without their injured star center Auston Matthews.
“From our perspective, if we played like we did tonight, most games we’re going to win,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “I thought offensively we had lots of good looks and that was because we played strong defensively. Really, a pretty complete game by us.”
After the teams slogged through three periods without a goal, the Devils had a power play when Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner was penalized for interference at 42 seconds of the overtime period.
The Maple Leafs killed off the penalty, but the Devils (11-4-3) continued to dominate until Nylander took the shot from the high slot that ended the game.
“I just came into the slot and wanted to shoot it, so, I don’t know, just got it to the net,” Nylander said. “I had a couple chances throughout the game, too, so I was a little rattled they weren’t going in but it’s nice to get it done in OT. I just knew when we got out there that there was a minute left and we had been out there for a little bit, so I don’t know how much time was left when I scored.”
Nylander can thank Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen for giving him the chance to score his first goal since Oct. 21 by keeping his team in the game with 42 saves, eight in overtime.
“I thought Freddie was really good, especially in overtime when we missed a guy and a good opportunity there obviously 4-on-3 in overtime,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “That was a big part for us. It was a tight-checking game, there wasn’t a lot of room for anybody — it was probably boring for the fans — but it’s kind of what I expected, and I was glad we embraced it. We stuck with it and found ourselves a way to get two points.”
Cory Schneider made 24 saves in the New Jersey goal.
“It was a game that I thought we got better as it went along,” Schneider said. “The first period was pretty even, but after that I thought we didn’t give them many shots at all. I thought we deserved better. You knew it could come down to a bounce and they got the lucky bounce there in overtime for the goal. Andersen was great tonight, he kept them in there.”
Toronto had a 12-10 advantage in shots in the first period and had 12 shots for the rest of the game.
“Feels good, a lot of people think it’s a boring game, but we’ve got to learn to enjoy playing like this,” Andersen said. “I think we did a good job at keeping them away from chances until the overtime. I think we did a good job.”
The Devils, who had 10 shots during the second period, applied constant pressure during a power play when Toronto’s Connor Brown was called for delay of game at 7:29 of the middle period.
The Devils held the Maple Leafs to four shots on goal in the second period. Toronto did have a chance with slightly more than four minutes to play in the second when James van Riemsdyk broke in on the left side and Tyler Bozak had a swipe at the rebound.
Van Riemsdyk set up Bozak for a clear chance to no avail during nearly three minutes into the third period.
“I thought it was a game where we managed the puck well,” said Devils center Travis Zajac, who played 16:11 in his first game since undergoing surgery on the left pectoral muscle Aug. 17. “We did a lot of good things not to let them generate too much offense.”
NOTES: Devils D Mirco Mueller (fractured left clavicle) had surgery Thursday for the injury sustained Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. He is expected to be out 10 to 12 weeks. ... Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews (upper body-injury) missed his fourth straight game Thursday, but has returned to practice this week. ... The Maple Leafs recalled RW Nikita Soshnikov from the Toronto Marlies of the AHL and he played on Thursday. He had five goals and seven assists in 14 games with the Marlies. C Frederik Gauthier was returned to the Marlies on loan. ... The Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday while the Devils will travel to Winnipeg to play the Jets Saturday.