NEWARK—On Thanksgiving Eve at the Prudential Center, there was still a game to be played before a day off and some holiday feasting. Still, there was plenty of ‘turkey’ to go around in the Devils 5-4 shootout victory over the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.
After struggling during their four-game road trip out West, going 1-3-0 and dropping three-straight in California, the Devils were looking to rebound at home. As the first period started to unravel though it appeared as though it would be more of the same.
Auston Matthews would open the scoring at 10:33 of the first period, ending a 13-game scoring drought to give Toronto the lead.
Continuing to apply the pressure, the Leafs capitalized minutes later on their first power play opportunity of the game as Matthews found Nazem Kadri in front of the net to double the lead.
Before the period would end, Matthews would again find the back of the net to increase the lead and register the turkey—his third point of the period, after recording just three points in the last month of play. The two-goal effort was his first multi-goal performance since an epic four-goal NHL debut.
Responding with their own ‘turkey,’ the Devils scored three times in the first 5:30 of the second period to even the score.
Travis Zajc’s goal 32 seconds into the period was followed by Beau Bennett’s first as a Devil, scored on the power play at 3:10 to end New Jersey’s nine-game, 0-for-29 slump on the man-advantage.
Mike Cammalleri, who missed the last six games tending to the aid of his daughter, hospitalized with phenomena, scored the equalizer of the period at 5:30 for his turkey-point of the period—part of a four-game effort.
Less than five minutes following the comeback to tie, ex-Islander Matt Martin followed his rebound to put the Leafs back up 4-3, his first as a member of the Blue and White.
In the third and with their flawless home record without a regulation loss at home on the line, Yohann Auvitu, who missed each of the three games in California, saw his shot trickle past Leafs’ tender, Jhonas Enroth to erase another Leaf lead at 6:50 of the third.
After surviving the three-on-three overtime period in which they were outshot 5-1, the Devils entered their second shootout of the season.
In the shootout, Jacob Josefson scored the lone goal in the second round as Devils’ Cory Schneider stopped all three Leafs’ shooters, Matthews, Mitch Marner and Nikita Soshnikov en route to the victory, snapping their three-game skid.
“Anybody will tell you, it feels great to produce,” Cammalleri said following a four-point return to the lineup. “When you’re productive you really feel like you’re doing your part and like anything in life, when you’re productive you feel good about yourself.”
Cammalleri, 34, and Matthews, 19, combined for 13 shots on the night, leading their teams with 9 and 4 shots, respectively.
“I did hear rumors all day about him being in a scoring slump and that’s the cardinal sin,” Cammalleri joked. “We know how this movie ends.”
Schneider, who battled back from a tough first period in which he allowed three goals on 8 shots, stopped 27 of 31 shots—not including the three in the shootout.
“I felt bad putting my team down 3-0 and felt like I had to make up for it down the stretch,” Schneider said. “It wasn’t always pretty, but we found a way and that’s all that matters now.”
Head coach John Hynes wouldn’t credit the comeback in the second period to any pep talk or verbal tongue-lashing, instead it was the players digging in.
“It was the group of players in the lineup tonight, they dug in,” Hynes said. “They really got themselves together.”
Hynes also praised his goaltender, saying he put no thought into pulling him after the rough start to the game.
“He’s a guy that you know is mentally tough,” he said. “He’s proven time and time again that he can gather himself in the middle of a game. When you look at the game, he came up big for us in the third period and overtime.”
New Jersey won’t be able to relish too long in the win or the holiday as they will host Detroit on Friday.