PL3 vs. Toronto, 2:1:10

Devils 2010-2011 Schedule Preview – Toronto Maple Leafs

torThroughout the offseason, Running With The Devils will preview the Devils 2010-2011 schedule, giving you an in-depth preview of the 29 other teams the Devils will face next season. We’ve already completed several previews, all of which can be found under the “Analysis/Reaction” tab. In today’s preview, we stay in the Eastern Conference, taking a look at this season’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Maple Leafs vs. Devils – Historical Data

In 114 all-time regular season meetings against Toronto, the Devils are 38-51-20-5. New Jersey averages 3.05 goals against the Maple Leafs, but they allow Toronto to score 3.33 goals per meeting. Last season, the teams met four times, with the Devils going 2-1-1 against the Maple Leafs.

The Devils won the first meeting of the season, 5-4, in overtime. Carl Gunnarson scored the game’s first goal, his first in the NHL, at 6:11 of the first period. But the lead wouldn’t last long, as the line of Zach PariseTravis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus would take control. Parise tied the game at one apiece with a goal at 7:10 of the period. Parise would net another goal in the period, putting the Devils ahead 2-1 at 13:40 of the first period.

Zubrus gave the Devils a 3-1 lead at 9:22 of the second period. Colton Orr cut the lead back to one, netting a goal at 14:41 of the period. But Patrick Davis would restore the two goal lead, scoring his first NHL goal at 17:19 of the period. Toronto roared back in the third, with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan scoring goals to tie the game at 4-4 and send it to overtime. Zajac netted the overtime winner at 4:14 of the extra period, giving the Devils the 5-4 win.

The Maple Leafs would exact revenge on February 2, winning the first game of a home-and-home series, 3-0, in Toronto. Nikolai Kulemin scored the game’s first goal, putting Toronto ahead, 1-0, at 4:40 of the first period. Toronto extended the lead in the second period, putting the game out of reach. Phil Kessel put the Maple Leafs ahead 2-0 at 2:23 of the period, and Francois Beauchemin scored a powerplay goal to give Toronto a 3-1 lead. Newly-acquired goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere stopped 30 shots for the win.

The Devils took the second game of the home-and-home series, 4-3, in Ilya Kovalchuk’s debut. Zubrus gave the Devils an early 1-0 lead at 13:20 of the first period. But the lead wouldn’t last, as Toronto would roar ahead in the second period. Tomas Kaberle tied the game at one with a powerplay goal at 3:39 of the period. Lee Stempniak put the Maple Leafs ahead, 2-1, with a powerplay tally at 10:23 of the period. Rickard Wallin finished off the scoring, extending the lead to 3-1 at 19:41.

The Devils would answer back in the third period. Dean McAmmond brought the Devils to 3-2 with a goal at 16:56 of the period. The Devils would wait until the final minute for the real dramatics. Zajac scored a 6-on-4 powerplay goal to tie the game at 19:16 of the period. Then, with 19 seconds left, Jay Pandolfo scored the game-winning goal, giving the Devils a 5-4 win.

The Maple Leafs won the final game of the season series, 2-1, in a shootout on March 18. Kessel struck first, scoring a goal at 18:54 of the first period. David Clarkson tied the game at 15:46 of the second period. The Maple Leafs solved Yann Danis in the shootout, scoring in all three rounds to defeat the Devils, 2-1.

Devils vs. Maple Leafs – This Season’s Matchup

The Devils and Maple Leafs will square off four times this season, with the first of those meetings coming November 18. The Devils, who always seem to struggle against the Maple Leafs, will also face them April 6. That final meeting may be one to watch, as it could determine playoff seedings for one or both teams.

The Leafs stayed relatively quiet after a busy trade deadline last season. During the deadline, the team acquired Dion Phaneuf and Giguere, to name a few players. This offseason, the Maple Leafs signed Colby Armstrong, their only big signing of the summer. The team also added Kris Versteeg from Chicago.

Toronto is one of those pesky teams that always gives the Devils a problem. Although not in the same division, the two teams seem to be developing a rivalry, which was further fueled by this hit and subsequent fight last season.

I’m sure that same physical play will continue in this season’s four meetings. Both teams are developing a hatred for each other, and that should continue to grow this year. Expect hard fought battles from all four games.

Other Important Stats

In seven career regular season games against the Devils, Giguere is 5-1-1 with a 1.94 goals-against-average and a .932 save percentage…The Parise – Zajac – Zubrus line combined for 11 points in four games against Toronto.

Abelimages/Getty Images North America

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