Recap: Devils Lose Back-and-Forth Battle at the Rock 4-3

Date: March 14, 2023

By: Louie Pasculli

This article was written on March 7, 2023

Vitek Vanecek giving up a tough goal late to the Leafs.

Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils were back in action on Tuesday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs traveled to the Prudential Center for a playoff-like matchup. The atmosphere in the Rock was buzzing with excitement with newly acquired forward Timo Meier slated to play his first game at his new home.

Despite the hoopla, the Maple Leafs took the lead on three separate occasions. The final instance came when Austin Matthews buried a go-ahead power play goal with just under three minutes remaining in the third period.

With goaltender Vitek Vanecek pulled, there wasn’t enough time for the Devils to grab the equalizer, and the final score was 4-3.

This was a contest in which the intensity steadily increased as the game progressed. The first period was all Devils. New Jersey was severely outshooting Toronto and generating good scoring chances.

Amongst the players peppering the Leafs’ goaltender was the assistant captain Jack Hughes and recent acquisition Timo Meier. Ilya Samsonov faced five shots from the pair in total but held his ground and kept the game scoreless.

Jonas Siegenthaler’s late period tripping penalty allowed the Maple Leafs to generate a bit more offense with the man advantage. Regardless, the Devils still were ahead in the shot total by a large margin.

The period concluded with New Jersey’s shot total at 15 and Toronto’s at 5. Despite the offensive pressure, the Devils were unable to find the back of the net and the game remained scoreless.

For the first 39 seconds of the second period the Devils were tasked with killing off the penalty from the period before. New Jersey was successful and didn’t allow another shot on the power play, but the Leafs came to life in the second.

Toronto began to get more looks offensively. With the ninth shot of the period, Calle Jarnkrok scored an easy goal from a great pass from William Nylander and put the Leafs ahead 1-0.

During the second period, Devs head coach Lindy Ruff decided to change the lines and promote Meier to the first line. Meier would be playing with captain Nico Hischier for the first time as a Devil.  Ruff said it was an opportunity to change the flow because the period wasn’t going his team’s way in the post-game presser.

With all the buzz surrounding Timo Meier playing on the second line and now the first line, it was the Devils’ third line that provided all the offensive output.

A stretch pass from Jesper Boqvist led to a scoring chance for Ondrej Palat. Samsonov made a nice save, but Erik Haula was in position to clean up the scraps. He scored his sixth goal of the season with 3:13 remaining in the second to tie the contest.

Much like Siegenthaler in the first period, Pontus Holmberg committed a double minor high sticking penalty with 30 seconds remaining in the second. The penalty was on Palat who needed to go to the locker room for some stiches.

This meant NJ would have a power play extending three and a half minutes into the third period. The period concluded 1-1 with the shots reading 24-19 in favor of the Devils.

The five-goal third period was by far the most entertaining and intense phase of the matchup. Toronto killed the four-minute penalty but took another one shortly afterward. William Nylander went to the box for a two-minute high sticking infraction.

54 seconds later Mitch Marner dispossessed Meier and scored a shorthanded breakaway goal to put the Maple Leafs’ back on top.

The Devils answered with three seconds remaining on the power play when Dawson Mercer found Palat who dangled around Samsonov to even the contest at two.

It didn’t take very long for Palat to return to the ice after suffering a facial injury, and his impact was immediately felt. Haula picked up his second point of the game as he was also credited with an assist.

Just three minutes later, Haula netted his second goal of the game. The score was 3-2 and he gave the Devils their first lead. Set up by linemates Boqvist and Palat, New Jersey’s third line accumulated seven points thus far.

That would be all for the HPB line as the next two goals came from Toronto. After a faceoff win from David Kampf, he and Justin Holl set up Michael Bunting for the third game-tying goal of the night. The score was knotted at three.

Meier committed a penalty with over four minutes remaining. While on the power play, William Nylander found Austin Matthews in the slot for the Leafs’ fourth goal.

Being down by one, the Devils pulled Vanecek shortly after the Matthews goal, but were unable to produce a goal. The game ended 4-3.

New Jersey did end up outshooting the Leafs 33-25, but the goal category didn’t reflect it. The Devs had more hits and time on the power play, but Toronto won more faceoffs and blocked more shots. Toronto also capitalized on a crucial shorthanded goal and scored two late goals in rapid succession to tie and then eventually win the game.  

New Jersey currently stands at 46-16-6 on the year. With this loss and a Hurricanes victory, the Devils sit four points out of first place. New Jersey has 19 games remaining and the Hurricanes have a game in hand with 20 left on their schedule.

The Devils next game is in Washington D.C. against the Washington Capitals. Opening faceoff will be at 7 p.m. Make sure to tune into WSOU socials for all the updates regarding the contest.

Louie Pasculli can be reached at

Posted in: Sports, NHL, New Jersey Devils

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