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Apr 9, 2024 3:11 am

Sliding Devils hope to trip up surging Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs will look to solidify their playoff position when they face the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night in Newark, N.J.

Toronto (45-23-9, 99 points) trails the Florida Panthers by three points for second place in the Atlantic Division, though the Maple Leafs have a game in hand. The Leafs lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by six points for third place.

On Monday, Jake McCabe scored 1:30 into overtime to lift the Maple Leafs to a 3-2 win against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins. Auston Matthews scored his league-high 65th goal of the season for Toronto, which is 5-1-0 in its past six games. Ilya Samsonov made 30 saves and rookie winger Matthew Knies scored his 15th goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs surrendered a late 2-1 lead before winning in overtime against a surging Penguins team that is competing for a wild-card spot.

“I thought we played good defensively,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot tonight. We were in our end way too much. It was one of those games where we had to stay with it.”

Matthews has six goals during a five-game goal streak and has registered points in each of his past 11 games (10 goal, 10 assists), tied for the active current point streak in the NHL. He has five games left to reach the 70-goal mark, which would make him the first to get there since Buffalo’s Alexander Mogilny and Winnipeg’s Teemu Selanne each scored 76 in 1992-93.

“Auston is just himself,” Keefe said. “He is poised and takes care of business. He doesn’t put scoring goals above the team. He goes about things the right way.”

The Devils (37-36-5, 79 points) continued their late-season slide with a 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Nashville Predators on Sunday. Jack Hughes and Chris Tierney scored for the Devils, who are 1-3-1 in their past five. Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen left in the first period due to a lower-body injury, and Jake Allen made 29 saves in relief.

Nashville scored the only goal in the shootout.

“To lose a game in a shootout, I just close my eyes and hope to hear the crowd roar,” New Jersey coach Travis Green said. “It’s a lot more fun when you win.”

Luke Hughes had an assist to extend his point streak to seven games (one goal, six assists). He has 45 points (nine goals, 36 assists) on the season, the second-most points by a rookie defenseman in franchise history. Barry Beck had 60 points for the Colorado Rockies in 1977-78.

“I think I’ve developed really well this year,” Luke Hughes said. “I’ve liked my game all year, keep going and keep getting better every day.”

According to Green, forward Curtis Lazar, who sustained an upper-body injury at Ottawa on Saturday, is likely out for the season.

The teams will play the second game of a home-and-home set on Thursday in Toronto. The visiting Devils beat the Maple Leafs 6-3 on March 26 in the clubs’ first meeting of the season behind 42 saves from Allen and a goal and two assists from Nico Hischier.

–Field Level Media

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