They came out fast, got contributions from all four lines, their defence and goaltender, and routed the Devils 7-2 on Tuesday night.
“I think tonight we came out ready to play,” said Maple Leafs forward Mitch Marner, who scored a goal. “We know they’ve got a good team over there … so we knew coming in here was going to be a hard match and I think we came in, got the puck behind them which is what we needed to, and that’s why we were successful.”
Nazem Kadri matched his career high with three assists, Marner and Morgan Rielly added second-period goals and Tyler Ennis had two in the closing minutes as Toronto embarrassed New Jersey for the second time this season. The win was their seventh in 11 games (7-2-2).
Frederik Andersen made 27 saves as the Maple Leafs finished a five-game trip with a 2-2-1 record.
“For us, we hadn’t been getting the results we’ve wanted to get over the past week, week-and-a-half, and it was about time for us to stand up and I thought we responded well,” Kadri said.
Sami Vatanen and Nico Hischier scored for the struggling Devils, who are 3-6-6 in their last 15 games. Keith Kinkaid gave up five goals on 21 shots before being lifted with New Jersey down 5-1 after 40 minutes.
“Tonight is not something you can just look past,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “We have to dig into it and get some answers.”
The Maple Leafs took the lead just seconds after the Devils’ killed off Blake Coleman’s penalty.
Hischier led a 2-on-1 break into the Toronto zone that Rielly broke up, triggering a 3-on-1 counterattack.
Matthews sent a pass to Kadri in the right circle, and he found Tavares coming down the middle for his 21st goal at 6:01.
Matthews doubled the lead less than two minutes later, depositing a loose puck into an open net. The Devils challenged the call, saying Matthews created the chance for his 17th goal by pushing defenceman Damon Severson into Kinkaid. The goal stood.
Marleau made it 3-0 with 6:22 left in the period when Kadri’s pass from the sideboard was mishandled by Vatanen and Kinkaid for a tap-in.
“I don’t know if we maintained it for 60 (minutes) but we really started good, came out, got on the cycle and scored some big goals,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. “Good win for our team.”
Vatanen scored on a rising slap shot with 1:16 left in the first period but Marner pushed the lead back to three goals, putting in the rebound of Tavares’ shot that banged off the goalpost. Rielly scored from the left circle with less than a second left in the second period.
Mackenzie Blackwood, who was called up from Binghamton on Monday when Cory Schneider was placed on injured reserve with an abdominal strain, made his NHL debut gave up the two late goals to Ennis.
“Our group in here, we can’t take nights off. Tonight was not our best,” Devils forward Taylor Hall said. “When we don’t play our best, unfortunately right now, we’re not going to get wins.
NOTES: The Leafs are 13-5-1 on the road. … Marleau’s goal was the 544th of his career, tying him for No. 30 in NHL history with Maurice Richard of the Canadiens. … Tavares has 14 of his 21 goals on the road. … Marner has 16 points in the last 11 games. … Hall returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury. … Vatanen’s goal was his first in 19 games. … Devils have been outscored 13-3 by the Leafs.
Maple Leafs: Open three-game homestand against Florida on Thursday.
Devils: At Columbus on Thursday.