New Jersey hasn’t had anything to play for since being eliminated from post-season contention with a loss to Montreal on Saturday. Toronto was knocked out Tuesday and it seemed to show 24 hours later, especially in the first two periods when they fell behind 3-0.
“Maybe we didn’t have our best first two periods but in the third we came out and played hard,” said goalie James Reimer, who was pulled after two periods for Jean-Sebastien Giguere. “It fun to watch the guys battle hard and work hard with the odds against you.”
Phil Kessel got the Maple Leafs back in the game with a power-play goal and Tyler Bozak scored a rare 3-on-5 goal to cut the deficit to a goal before Patrik Elias iced the game for New Jersey with an empty-net goal with 10 seconds to play.
“It shows we still have fight in us, and although we are kicked out (of the playoffs) we still want to win,” Reimer said.
Mattias Tedenby and Henrik Tallinder also scored for the Devils, who improved to 21-8-2 since the all-star break and dropped Toronto to 18-8-6 in the span.
Kovalchuk extended his string of 30-goal NHL seasons to eight when he scored at 13:47 of the first with New Jersey on a power play. The Russian took a pass from rookie Jacob Josefson in the left circle and ripped a shot into the right corner of the net past Reimer for his ninth power-play goal.
“It’s nice but we didn’t accomplish the goal put in front of us before the season,” Kovalchuk said. “I don’t think any player on this team can be satisfied with his season.”