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Jake Allen steals the show with 42 saves as Maple Leafs fall to Devils 6-3

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Photo credit:© Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Joseph Zita
22 days ago
It’s strange to see two teams meet for the first time with less than a month to go in the regular season. Nonetheless, the Toronto Maple Leafs began a two-game homestand last night, hosting the New Jersey Devils in the first of three meetings between the Eastern Conference teams to close out the 2023-24 campaign.

First period:

On Sunday night against Carolina, Toronto allowed a goal 1:06 into the first period. Last night against New Jersey, Toronto scored a goal 1:04 into the first period. The not-so-new-but-new-look first-line got things started for the Maple Leafs. TJ Brodie tracked back into his zone to collect the puck and instantly fired a pass to Max Domi on the opposite side of the ice. Domi received the puck and found Tyler Bertuzzi at the offensive blue line and was sprung on a breakaway against Jake Allen.
Bertuzzi pulled off a nifty backhand forehand move to undress the Devils netminder, scoring his 16th goal of the season for the early lead.
The early tally went straight to the home team’s legs. Toronto held a 6-0 shot advantage through the first four minutes and could’ve had another goal. Unfortunately, on one of the only times the Devils entered the offensive zone, Luke Hughes fired a knuckle puck, which beat Joseph Woll and tied the game at one on his team’s first shot of the game. Similarly to the Bertuzzi goal, the Hughes goal brought some life to the Devils for the next few shifts. They spent a little more time in the attacking zone, looking for another marker, but Woll was up to the task, making a tremendous save from in tight. The little zone time lasted only a few minutes for the road team before Toronto ultimately took over the next 16 minutes of the period.
Chance after chance for the Maple Leafs, but they could not find the back of the net again on Allen. Every line had chances to score. From the top line that opened the scoring to the fourth line, Allen was by far the Devils’ best player on the ice that frame, and it wasn’t particularly close. When watching that first period, two things were evident. One, New Jersey isn’t good at defending in their zone. Toronto had a field day in the attacking zone, winning almost every puck battle along the walls, in the corners, and at the net. Two, New Jersey is deadly off the rush, and after Hughes scored for his team, Nico Hischier got in on the action after being sprung on a 2-on-1 after a pinch by Jake McCabe.
If you’ve watched hockey for a while, or just Toronto games over the years, you had a tiny feeling that despite all this pressure from the Maple Leafs and nearing 30 shots, it was too good to be true, and the opposition was going to score. Unfortunately, that happened to be the case in the first period. On the bright side, Toronto was awarded a power play with roughly 40 seconds left after Kevin Bahl took a retaliation penalty on Simon Benoit along the boards after being hit by the Maple Leafs defender.
Toronto entered the first intermission down 2-1 despite outshooting New Jersey 25-10 and generating an xGF of 2.57 in all situations, according to Moneypuck.com.

Second period:

With over a minute left on their power play that carried over to the second period, the Maple Leafs couldn’t do anything with it, recording zero shots. However, minutes after their power play expired, William Nylander evened the game up at five-on-five after bolting into the offensive zone and beating Allen low along the ice for his 40th goal of the season.
Less than two minutes after Nylander’s early tally, Ilya Lyubushkin fired a pass up ice to Auston Matthews, and he used his size to get position on the Devils’ defender, allowing him to snap his 59th of the season past Allen for the 3-2 lead.
After scoring just one goal on 25 shots in the previous period, the Maple Leafs had two quick goals on their first four shots of the middle frame. Unfortunately, their 3-2 lead lasted roughly 40 seconds after Timo Meier tied things back up with his 24th of the season. That goal was the third goal Woll had allowed on just 14 shots. And only 48 hours prior, he recorded 41 saves on 43 shots against the Hurricanes. That’s hockey for you. Things didn’t get better for the 25-year-old. The Devils had looked much better in the middle period compared to the first, and with seven minutes to go, New Jersey took back their lead after Max Willman potted home the loose puck from in front of the net for his second goal of the season.
Similar to the end of the first period when Toronto got a late power play, John Marino was called for tripping Tyler Bertuzzi, putting the Maple Leafs back on the man advantage for the final 1:15.
Toronto entered the second intermission down 4-3 and outshooting the opposition 35-20

Third period:

It was unlucky to see Toronto enter the final period down 4-3, given the quantity and quality of chances they had created on Jake Allen in the previous 40 minutes. But they’ve shown throughout the season that they are one of the teams in the NHL that can come back in the third period, no matter what the deficit is. Being down one goal wasn’t the worst thing ever.
Once the puck dropped for the third frame, the Devils started to play a conservative game. They weren’t forcing anything offensively, and although they got outplayed heavily in the first period, they purposely allowed Toronto to attack them. The chances kept coming for the home team, including a couple of great looks from the Matthews line, but Allen, as he was doing all night long, made spectacular save after spectacular save. The clock started to show less than 10 minutes in the game, decreasing the Maple Leafs’ chances of potentially tying the game up in front of the home crowd. Similarly, at the start of the game, Toronto held a pretty big shot advantage for the bulk of the third period but couldn’t solve Allen after two quick strikes to begin the middle frame.
With roughly three and a half minutes to go, after spending the previous couple of shifts in the Devils’ zone, Max Domi received a pass from Auston Matthews and decided to fire a blind spin-o-rama pass to the other side of the ice, similar to Alex Galchenyuk’s in game five against Montreal in 2021 that still gives Maple Leafs fans nightmares, and got picked off, as expected.
The Devils jumped up the ice, and Jack Hughes beat Woll five-hole on a breakaway for his 25th of the season, doubling their lead with a little over three minutes to go. With over two minutes left to play, Sheldon Keefe pulled his goalie for the extra attacker, but that did not matter. Jack Hughes raced down the ice, received the puck, and deposited his second of the night into the vacant net for the 6-3 lead, wrapping this game up.

Who stood out:

He’s not a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the main reason Toronto lost last night was due to the performance of Jake Allen. He stood out, just for the wrong team.
The eye test and numbers back up Toronto’s effort in last night’s game. More often than not, they’d win that game after a tremendous effort with the puck. However, Woll wasn’t his sharpest and allowed five goals – the third time allowing four or more goals since returning from injury. Allowing five goals on 24 shots isn’t ideal. But there were some plays from Toronto away from the puck, and even with the puck, that resulted in a turnover, and it didn’t help Woll at all.
Although they only scored three goals, despite a 45-shot effort, Auston Matthews inched closer to a potential 70-goal season with his 59th goal last night, putting him one away from his second 60-goal campaign in three seasons. William Nylander also reached an impressive milestone when he tied the game in the second period. His 40th goal of the season gave him consecutive seasons reaching that goal mark. With that goal, he became the sixth Maple Leaf in franchise history to score 40 goals in a season twice, joining Matthews, Sittler, McDonald, Vaive, and Sundin.
You can catch the Toronto Maple Leafs’ next game on Thursday night when they close out their mini two-game homestand against the Washington Capitals. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT.
(Stats from hockey-reference.com)

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