NEWARK, N.J. - The New Jersey Devils blitzed the Toronto Maple Leafs for three goals in the first 22 minutes on Sunday night, using the hot start to earn a 3-2 victory at Prudential Center.
Right winger Damien Brunner put the Devils ahead 1-0 early in the first period, then left winger Patrik Elias and defenseman Jon Merrill scored 32 seconds apart early in the second period to break the game open.
Goaltender Cory Schneider made 21 saves to help the Devils keep their fading playoff hopes alive.
Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs dropped their fifth straight game and sixth of seven, all of the losses occurring in regulation. They have fallen to eighth place in the conference, one point ahead of the Washington Capitals for the final playoff spot in the East.
The Devils are five points behind the Maple Leafs.
Center Tyler Bozak and right winger Phil Kessel scored for the Maple Leafs.
Starting Toronto goaltender James Reimer was yanked after allowing three goals on 10 shots. Backup Drew MacIntyre, playing in his first NHL game in more than two years, made 14 saves on 14 shots in relief.
Brunner's goal at 14:38 of the first period was the result of a 2-on-1 rush with center Adam Henrique, who fed Brunner on the right side for a quick shot that eluded Reimer's catching glove.
Elias made it 2-0 at 1:18 of the second period when he danced through a host of Maple Leafs and deked Reimer to the ice for his 17th goal of the season.
Thirty-two seconds later, Merrill's second goal of the season squeezed through Reimer, ending the goaltender's night.
Bozak's power-play goal at 5:26 brought the Maple Leafs to within 3-1, as the center finished a great pass from defenseman Morgan Rielly.
Kessel scored with 1:31 remaining and MacIntyre on the bench for an extra attacker.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs were without G Jonathan Bernier (groin) and D Paul Ranger (neck). Bernier last played March 13, while Ranger suffered his injury against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday. On March 11, the Maple Leafs had 78 points, the third most in the Eastern Conference. They lost six of their next seven games. ... Devils D Anton Volchenkov (lower body) and RW Steve Bernier (healthy scratch) did not play. Devils coach Peter DeBoer dressed seven defensemen, although D Eric Gelinas saw time at forward. ... Eight of the Devils' final 10 games are against teams currently outside of a playoff spot.