Devils hold off slumping Leafs
Newark, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - New Jersey kept its playoff hopes alive with a 3-2 win over the slumping Toronto Maple Leafs, one of the teams the Devils are trying to catch.
Patrik Elias, Jon Merrill and Damien Brunner each scored for the Devils, who snapped a six-game losing streak against Toronto. Cory Schneider earned the win with 21 saves.
Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak supplied the goals for a Maple Leafs team riding an untimely skid. Toronto matched a season high with its fifth consecutive loss.
"We have to come together as a team and battle," Bozak said.
The Devils now have 75 points, five fewer than Toronto, which holds the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Kessel scored with 1:31 remaining in the third period and the Toronto net empty, closing the gap to 3-2.
The Maple Leafs couldn't complete the comeback and suffered their first loss to the Devils since Feb. 21, 2012.
"You knew they'd get a push back and get their chances, but we hung on there," Schneider said.
Brunner snapped a shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 rush and beat James Reimer glove-side to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead at 14:38 of the first period.
Merrill assisted on Elias' goal before scoring 32 seconds later to trigger a Toronto goalie change early in the second period.
Merrill sent a stretch pass from the New Jersey zone that Elias gathered at the Toronto blue line. The veteran forward slipped a backhander in after faking a slap shot at 1:18.
The Devils went up 3-0 when Merrill jumped on a loose puck and fired a slapper from near the top of the left circle that squeezed through Reimer at 1:50.
Drew MacIntyre, a 30-year-old journeyman, relieved Reimer, who stopped only seven shots in his fifth straight start with Jonathan Bernier sidelined with a groin injury.
Bozak put Toronto on the board at 5:26 of the middle stanza, tipping in Morgan Rielly's pass from the point for a power-play goal.
The Maple Leafs had a 5-on-3 power play for 1:17 later in the second and failed to convert.
MacIntyre made 14 saves in his fifth NHL appearance and first since Nov. 25, 2011.
The Devils are 2-2-0 on a five-game homestand that concludes Thursday against Phoenix ... Toronto also lost five straight from Nov. 25-Dec. 3.
03/24 00:41:41 ET