The Toronto Maple Leafs ended New Jersey’s 13-game winning streak 2-1 Wednesday night, leaving the Devils a win shy of a franchise record.
John Tavares and Pontus Holmberg had first-season goals for the Leafs. Dougie Hamilton had the Devils’ only goal at 5:08 in the third period.
Toronto goaltender Matt Murray made 34 saves and was the beneficiary of three New Jersey goals that were disallowed – the third of which prompted fans to contaminate the ice in the third period in protest, forcing the Leafs to to retire briefly to the dressing room security.
“You don’t often see three in a game. But we’ve seen three in a game,” said Devils coach Lindy Ruff.
The Devils set a franchise record with 13 straight wins when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers Monday night. New Jersey previously won 13 straight games from February 16 to March 23, 2001. The current streak began on October 25 and fueled New Jersey’s stunning rise to the top of the Metropolitan Division (16-4-0) after finishing 28th in the NHL last season.
The Devils’ winning streak was the fifth-longest in NHL history, four games behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 1993 record.
“It was a bit frustrating. It just seemed like it wasn’t quite in control in a way and then it went crazy,” said striker Eric Haula. “Bad luck for us. Hard hits. if [the streak] would end, it would end like this. A complete hurricane.”
Tavares scored after 11:41 of the first half from Mitch Marner, who extended his scoring streak to 14 games. Holmberg’s first NHL goal made it 2-0 at 14:03.
The game was marred by a delay in the third period as fans soiled the ice after the third instance in which a Devils goal was disallowed.
In the first half, the Devils fell short of a coaching challenge due to goaltender interference when the on-ice referees blocked a Jonas Siegenthaler goal. The NHL Situation Room ruled that forward Nathan Bastian “had a significant presence in the crease that affected Matt Murray’s ability to play his position”.
In the second half, a goal by Damon Severson was disallowed when it was ruled that Devils forward Tomas Tatar had an accidental contact with Murray that left Toronto’s goal open.
“It’s a hit or a miss. If they called it a goal, maybe you challenged them. He has to make an effort to avoid the keeper,” Ruff said.
But it was a cornered goal in the third period that got the crowd excited. Haula kicked Leafs forward Nick Robertson’s skate’s puck into the net. It was ruled an on-ice goal but overruled by the NHL Situation Room.
As per Rule 49.2: “A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks the puck into the net with his skate/foot with a definite kicking motion to hit the net of a player, goaltender or official.”
When the decision was announced, fans threw rubbish on the ice in protest. Toronto’s players and coaches left their bench and went to the dressing room. Devils players signaled fans to stop.
“We have some passionate fans and I think it showed tonight,” Ruff said.
Hamilton’s third-half goal turned that anger into celebration and gave the Devils momentum late on. But they failed to equalize, and their epic winning streak was halted with a victory before a franchise record.