espn

Matthews, Nylander lead Maple Leafs past Devils 4-2

TORONTO -- It was the type of game, Mike Babcock said, that good teams find a way to win.

His surging Toronto Maple Leafs did just that, helped by some emerging rookie stars.
Auston Matthews had two assists and William Nylander had a goal and an assist as the Maple Leafs topped the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Thursday night for their seventh win in nine games.

Nylander set a franchise rookie mark by extending his points streak to 10 games, while equaling another team record for power-play points with 25. Mitch Marner also matched a club rookie record for assists with his 40th, setting up James van Riemsdyk's 23rd of the season.

"I think you have to learn how to win these games over and over again," Babcock said. "You just expect it. It doesn't matter if it's back-to-back. It doesn't matter where you played. It doesn't matter who you play. You expect to win."

Josh Leivo and Connor Brown also scored for the Leafs, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine. Curtis McElhinney made 30 saves to earn the win. Toronto (85 points) increased its lead over Boston (82) to three points for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

John Moore scored both goals for the Devils. Keith Kinkaid allowed three goals on 29 shots.

"I thought we were just OK in the first 40 and we picked it up in the third and that's how we need to play," Moore said. "We were in their end quite a bit and forced them to make hard plays to get out of the zone and kept them pinned a little bit and created scoring chances."

The Devils got on the scoreboard first when Moore's innocent-looking shot -- the Devils' first of the game -- from below the right faceoff circle somehow got between McElhinney's pads about three minutes in. The 33-year-old McElhinney was starting for the first time since a loss in Anaheim on March 3.

Toronto rebounded quickly with a power-play goal less than three minutes later. Kinkaid stopped Matthews' initial attempt from the right faceoff circle, but struggled to smother the rebound as Leivo stuffed it into the goal. Leivo, who also drew the penalty that led to the man advantage, was getting his first chance to play since Feb. 28 after being a healthy scratch in the previous 10 games. He replaced an injured Eric Fehr (hand) in the lineup.

Adding an assist on the play and his first point of the evening, Nylander extended his points streak to 10 games to set a franchise rookie record (12 points). The 20-year-old also notched his 25th power-play point of the year to match Dan Daoust's franchise rookie mark (1982-83).

Later in the period, following a handoff from Matthews, Nylander scored his 21st goal of the year. He has 11 goals and 25 points since Feb. 1 to lead the Leafs, totaling 56 points on the season.

"Willy's obviously been playing lights out lately," Matthews said. "He's been playing unbelievable."

Rookies continued to dent the Leafs' record book early in the second. Coming down the right side, Marner fired a shot off the right pad of Kinkaid that kicked straight to van Riemsdyk, who promptly banged in the goal for a 3-1 lead. Marner notched his 40th assist of the season to equal Gus Bodnar's rookie mark for assists (1943-44).

Matthews remains one goal from matching Wendel Clark's rookie franchise record of 34, and six points from tying Peter Ihnacak's rookie franchise mark for points (66). His two-point outing against the Devils gave the 19-year-old Matthews the third-highest scoring season by a Leafs rookie, trailing only Ihnacak and Bodnar (62).

"We've got so many of us, so I think all of us can feed off each other going through similar things," Matthews said of the Leafs' rookies. "Especially toward this part of the season where your body's wearing down and we're fighting for a spot in the playoffs."
Tyler Bozak also picked up an assist on van Riemsdyk's goal to set a career high with 50 points.

"We've just got work harder (like we did) in the third," Moore said. "We need that mentality, not the second-period mentality."

Game notes
Nylander nearly scored again in a second period, but his shot from the slot was stopped by Kinkaid. ... Toronto had 24 shot attempts in the middle frame to just seven for New Jersey, with puck possession nearly 70 percent for the Leafs. ... The game took a nasty turn about seven minutes into the third when Matt Hunwick delivered a high, hard hit on Kyle Palmieri. Travis Zajac immediately went after Hunwick (dealt a minor for boarding), but he was quickly jumped by veteran Leafs center Brian Boyle, with the two trading blows in a spirited scrap. ... Brown's goal was an empty-netter. ... Toronto played without veteran defenseman Roman Polak, who was serving the first game of a two-game suspension for a hit on Columbus' Oliver Bjorkstrand one night earlier.

UP NEXT

Devils: Host Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.

Maple Leafs: At Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.

Related Video
Nylander extends point streak to 10 in Leafs' win
Nylander extends point streak to 10 in Leafs' win
William Nylander records an assist and a goal as the Maple Leafs double up the Devils 4-2.

Related Topics:
sportsespnnhlnew jersey devilstoronto maple leafs
(Copyright ©2017 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.)

Load Comments