June 23rd, 2024

Devils down Maple Leafs 6-5; Matthews scores two to reach 68 goals on the season

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on April 11, 2024.

TORONTO – Jesper Bratt scored his second goal of the game with 1:14 left in regulation as the New Jersey Devils downed Toronto 6-5 on a night where Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews added two goals of his own to give him an NHL-topping 68 on the season Thursday.

Timo Meier, with two goals and an assist, Erik Haula and Nolan Foote provided the rest of the offence for New Jersey (38-37-5). Jake Allen stopped 27 shots. Luke Hughes had two assists. Bratt added an assist for a three-point performance.

John Tavares, with two, and David Kampf had the other goals for Toronto (46-24-9). Ilya Samsonov made 14 saves. Max Domi and Mitch Marner chipped in two assists each.

William Nylander played the 600th regular-season game of his career for the Leafs, who suffered an ugly 6-3 loss to the Devils on home ice late last month before picking up a 5-2 road victory Tuesday.

Looking to become the first player to reach 70 goals in more than three decades, Matthews’ current total is the most in the NHL since Mario Lemieux’s 69 in 1995-96.

Toronto is still looking to move up into second place in the Atlantic Division before the playoffs start April 20, while New Jersey is playing for pride and jobs next season.

Tied 4-4 through two periods, Matthews took a tripping penalty in the third and the Devils capitalized when Bratt beat Samsonov with this 26th at 11:03.

Tavares got things back level again with 4:47 left in regulation when he buried his second of the night – and 26th of the campaign – off a Morgan Rielly setup.

But the Devils responded with 74 seconds left on the clock when Bratt snapped his 27th off the rush.

The Leafs got a late power play for a 6-on-4 advantage, but couldn’t find the range.

Down 3-2 after a wild and sloppy first, Matthews scored his second of the evening and 68th of the campaign off an inch-perfect Domi pass at 7:59 before chants of “M-V-P!” rained down from the Scotiabank Arena stands.

The goal – his ninth in the last seven games – was the sniper’s 274th all-time at even strength to pass Mats Sundin for top spot in franchise history.

Kampf made a nice move to score his eighth just 1:17 later before Devils defenceman Simon Nemec got mixed up with Matthews. Domi took exception and dropped the gloves with the rookie to earn himself an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct.

The Devils got back even with 11.6 seconds left in the period when Meier ripped his second of the night – and 27th overall – to knot things 4-4 through 40 minutes.

Tavares opened the scoring 18 seconds into the first when he swept home his 25th. Haula responded 21 seconds later with his 16th.

Matthews then snapped his 67th at 6:08 – the 366th of his career to pass Dave Keon for third on the franchise’s all-time list.

Foote, who missed most of the season with an undisclosed injury, got that one back at 7:57 when he jumped on a Mark Giordano giveaway to score his first.

Toronto winger Nick Robertson had a goal overturned on a coach’s challenge for offside a few minutes later.

The Devils got the game’s first power play and converted when Meier scored his 26th at 12:37 for a 3-2 lead.

KNIES ON YOTES

Leafs rookie and Phoenix native Matthew Knies was asked before the game about the Arizona Coyotes potential move to Salt Lake City, Utah, as early as next season.

“Pretty unfortunate,” the 21-year-old winger told reporters following Thursday’s morning skate. “The Coyotes did a lot for me growing up, and I loved going to the games. It was a big reason as to why I got into hockey.

“I’m hopeful that they can stay.”

EDDY RETURNS

Leafs defenceman Joel Edmundson was back in the lineup after missing the last eight games with an undisclosed injury.

Fellow blueliner Jake McCabe, meanwhile, got the night off with the team looking to get as healthy as possible for the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Toronto: Hosts the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.

New Jersey: Visits the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2024.

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