– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
NEWARK, N.J. — Both of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last two contests before tonight, a couple of losses away from home, could have been viewed as more exception than rule given the team’s stellar play overall on their travels this season. They bounced back in a furious manner on Tuesday at the New Jersey Devils’ expense.
John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau all scored in the game’s first 15 minutes to help open up a 3-0 lead, part of the Maple Leafs’ 7-2 domination of the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center. Toronto snapped a two-game losing streak, and in two games this season against the Devils, Toronto has outscored New Jersey 13-3.
“We haven’t been getting the results we wanted to get for a week and a half, and it was about time for us to step it up and we responded well,” said Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri, who had three assists.
It was a stellar defensive play by blue liner Morgan Rielly that immediately led to the Maple Leafs opening the floodgates early, as he broke up a New Jersey 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity by getting his stick on Nico Hischier’s centering pass. His deflection ended up going onto the stick of Matthews as a 3-on-1 emerged for Toronto, and a series of passes between Matthews, Kadri and John Tavares led to Tavares’ 21st goal of the season and a 1-0 lead at 6:01 of the first.
Toronto opened up a 2-0 advantage amid controversy, as Matthews scored from in close on a rebound after he appeared to push Devils defenseman Damon Severson into goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid during the initial shot attempt by defenseman Nikita Zaitsev. New Jersey challenged the goal and, despite the replay showing that Matthews did push Severson into Kinkaid as Kinkaid was making the first save, no goaltender interference was ruled and the goal stood.
The Maple Leafs’ third goal came with a little history, as Patrick Marleau scored from in front for his 544th career NHL goal, tying Maurice “Rocket” Richard for 30th all time in league history in goals scored.