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Maple Leafs down slumping Devils

The SportsXchange

NEWARK, N.J. -- Ilya Kovalchuk may not come back soon enough to save the New Jersey Devils.

The Devils have played their way out of the playoff picture after Kovalchuk injured a shoulder in March and Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak added to New Jersey's misery with a goal apiece in Toronto's 2-1 victory on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 17,625 at Prudential Center.

James Reimer came up with 27 saves to hold off the Devils (15-14-9), who are stuck at 39 points and stand 0-3-3 since Kovalchuk was sidelined. With 10 games left in the season, the 2012 Stanley Cup runner-up Devils are in danger of not making the playoffs.

New Jersey is battling a number of teams for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Division and the competition got tougher on Saturday night as the Rangers (42 points), Islanders (42) and Jets (40) all picked up two points with victories.

"We know that the opposition we're playing against in New Jersey and the situation they're in, this is like a playoff game," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's going to be the same thing with the Rangers when we start against them Monday night."

Toronto (21-13-4) took a 2-0 lead on Bozak's goal 8:02 into the third. Bozak broke in on net after receiving a pass from Phil Kessel. Bozak's shot hit off Martin Brodeur's stick and carried over the goalie and into the net.

David Clarkson broke a scoring drought of 123-plus minutes for the Devils when he scored his 13th goal, at 11:37. Marek Zidlicky centered the puck on a break and Clarkson beat Reimer with a shot through the five hole to make it 2-1.

"I don't think we're panicking," Clarkson said. "It's frustrating, you're in there making plays, but we're on the other end of the bounces. In sports, that's what happens. It's not just going in right now. We need to keep doing the little things. We're playing good hockey. That's the hard part to swallow because we're doing good things."

For the second straight home game, the Devils found themselves in an early hole. On the second shot of the game, at the 3:49 mark, Komarov redirected Mark Fraser's slap shot from just inside the blue line past Brodeur for a 1-0 lead. On Monday in a 3-1 loss at home, the Islanders scored 52 seconds into the game and again at 7:14. The Devils stand 3-13-5 this season when their opponent scores first.

Cody Franson had sent the puck left, across the blue line, to Fraser, who unloaded his shot. Komarov got his stick on the puck and it sailed past Brodeur, who was moving to cover the near post.

"I'm going to sound like a broken record, but we've gotta find a way in that first period to get the first goal," Devils coach Pete DeBoer said. "The table was set for us (5 on 3) and we didn't take advantage of it. There's some frustration in not winning. We have to find a way to win. We have to cash in on the power-play tonight."

The Maple Leafs nearly made it 2-0 in the final seconds of the first period when Clarke MacArthur fired a shot that hit off the far post. Brodeur managed to cover it up as the period ended.

The Devils held a 14-8 shot advantage in the first period, which didn't include an attempt by Mark Fayne that hit off the right post.

The Maple Leafs have killed penalties at 91.6 percent rate in their previous 26 games and rank No. 4 overall in that category.

"Definitely, our power play needs to be a little better," Brodeur said. "We had a minute-four five-on-three and it was the perfect chance for us to get on the board and get some momentum and we didn't execute. All these things happen when you're holding the stick a little tighter, it's an act of desperation. We just can't afford to lose too many more games."

The Leafs continued to be stingy in the first, blanking the Devils during four power plays, including a two-man advantage for a span of 1:04.

"I think the killing off of the five-on-three usually sets your defensive game up," Carlyle said. "We had a few bounces go our way and our goaltender made some big stops. I thought it was a real strong game by our goalie and our defense tonight."

The Maple Leafs tightened their defense in the second period and held a 5-4 edge in shots on the Devils, who were on their heels for the final two minutes when Toronto closed out the period on a power play.

NOTES: Brodeur's son, Jeremy, also a goalie, was drafted by the Oshawa Generals in the eighth round of the OHL Priority Draft. DeBoer, the Devils' coach, is a minority owner of the club. "Of all my kids, he's the most likely to go junior," Brodeur said. "He's the most like me. It was fun to see his reaction (to getting drafted). We're going to think about it. Once he plays one game, he loses his college eligibility, so we don't know if we're going that route yet." ... Newly acquired forward Steve Sullivan is the 24th Devil to leave and then return to play for New Jersey. Sullivan last wore a Devils jersey on Feb. 20, 1997, at Florida. ... The Devils are now winless in their last six games at 0-3-3 and have scored one goal in each of its last two home losses. ... Toronto was without Joffrey Lupul, who might have suffered a concussion after taking a jarring hit to the head in the Maple Leafs' 5-3 loss to the Flyers on Thursday. Lupul had been one of Toronto's hottest players with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) since returning from a 25-game absence because of a broken arm.

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