William Nylander propelled the Leafs to their fifth straight victory, scoring the overtime winner as Toronto prevailed over New Jersey 1-0.
The Thursday night affair was uneventful over the final two regulation periods, only to reach a climactic overtime period to re-energize the fans at Air Canada Centre.
In the extra session, Toronto killed off a penalty to Jake Gardiner, then both teams traded scoring chances in the final minute. After Morgan Rielly was denied by Devils goalie Cory Schneider, the visitors counter-attacked, and Frederik Andersen kept the Leafs in the game with saves on Kyle Palmieri and Taylor Hall.
On the same shift, with time winding down, Nylander carried the puck the other way, down the right wing and into the offensive zone before making a weak centring attempt to Nazem Kadri. But the Leafs managed to keep possession after a recovery along the boards, and Nylander – with 2.2 seconds showing on the clock – beat Schneider with a wrist shot from the slot.
“I was pretty tired,” Nylander said of the final shift. “It went back and forth there a few times so (I had) low energy. Luckily it couldn’t go back the other way after that.”
It was Nylander’s first goal in twelve games. Andersen made 42 saves for his second shutout of the season.
The Leafs stymied a brilliant 24-save performance from Schneider, who made a pair of goal line saves in the first period on James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Marleau to give the Devils a chance to salvage a point in the standings.
“When you haven’t scored in a while as a young guy, you get thinking too much instead of just playing and working,” coach Mike Babcock said of Nylander. “We’ve got to get our guys convinced of that. If you just work everything works out fine.”