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Jake Allen shines early, New Jersey Devils down Maple Leafs 6-3

New Jersey Devils defenceman Luke Hughes (43) and centre Nico Hischier (13) celebrate Hughes' goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston New Jersey Devils defenceman Luke Hughes (43) and centre Nico Hischier (13) celebrate Hughes' goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
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Jake Allen made 42 saves, Nico Hischier had a goal and two assists, and the New Jersey Devils topped the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 on Tuesday.

Jack Hughes scored twice, including into the empty net, and Timo Meier added a goal and an assist, while Luke Hughes and Max Willman provided the rest of the offence for New Jersey (36-33-4).

Jesper Bratt chipped in three assists for the Devils, who have won four of five as they push for a playoff spot. Curtis Lazar added two of his own.

Auston Matthews, with his NHL-leading 59th goal, William Nylander and Tyler Bertuzzi replied for Toronto (40-22-9), which got 19 stops from Joseph Woll.

T.J. Brodie had two assists.

The Leafs sit third in the Atlantic Division with the post-season less than a month away, while the Devils entered Tuesday five points back of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card berth.

Toronto was minus injured forward Mitch Marner (high ankle sprain) and goaltender Ilya Samsonov (undisclosed) along with defencemen Morgan Rielly (upper-body injury) and Joel Edmundson (undisclosed).

Down 2-1 after a dominant opening period that saw them hold a 25-10 edge in shots, the Leafs scored with their first effort on target in the second when Nylander capitalized off the rush at 3:14 to give him back-to-back 40-goal campaigns.

Matthews buried his 59th on a break at 4:51, but the Devils tied it 46 seconds later when Meier scored his 24th.

Willman then picked up just his second goal of 2023-24 when he jumped on a loose puck with Woll down and out at 13:05 for a 4-3 lead through two periods.

Allen made a big stop on Max Domi midway through the third as Toronto pushed for an equalizer. But the Leafs forward made an ill-advised pass later in the period that resulted in Jack Hughes breakaway that he slid past Woll for his 25th with 3:13 left in regulation.

The Devils centre then iced it into an empty net.

The Leafs opened the scoring 64 seconds into the first when Bertuzzi took a stretch pass from Domi and beat Allen with a move to the forehand for his 16th.

The Devils got that one back at 4:25 when Hughes, who spent part of his childhood in Toronto when he dad worked for the Leafs, moved into the offensive zone and fired a shot that sailed past Woll's glove for the rookie defenceman's ninth.

The home side peppered Allen from there - shot attempts would read 38-14 through 20 minutes - but couldn't find a way past the New Jersey goaltender before Hischier scored his 24th on a 2-on-1 with 2:04 remaining in the period.

MARNER, SAMSONOV SKATE

Marner and Samsonov were both on the ice ahead of the morning skate. Head coach Sheldon Keefe said both could rejoin the team for Wednesday's practice. Marner has missed eight games, while Samsonov departed Saturday's 6-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers late in the third period. Keefe added the team doesn't expected Edmundson to be available this week.

GREENER'S PASTURE

Devils interim head coach Travis Green, who replaced the fired Lindy Ruff three weeks ago, played parts of three seasons in Toronto, including when the team made a run to the conference final in 2022. “Every player likes to come and play here,” said the 53-year-old. “But I think every player enjoys playing for the Leafs, as well. Special place.”

UP NEXT

Toronto: Hosts the Washington Capitals on Thursday.

New Jersey: Visits the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 26, 2024.

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