NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Another standout game by James Reimer, a couple of good bounces of the puck, and great penalty killing has the Toronto Maple Leafs inching closer to their first playoff berth in nine years.
Rookie Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak scored, Reimer made 27 saves, and the Maple Leafs held New Jersey without a shot during a 64-second, two-man advantage and earned a 2-1 victory on Saturday night that extended the reeling Devils' losing streak to six games.
The Maple Leafs' fourth win in five games strengthened their position in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race. The Maple Leafs are fifth in the East, seven points ahead of the 10th-place Devils, who are three points behind the eighth-place New York Islanders and the postseason cutoff.
``You want to beat the teams that are trying to catch you and create a little more gap,' Bozak said. ``We're happy with the win but we have a couple of more big games coming up with the Rangers and the Devils again, so it's going to be key for us to get a few more wins and keep this thing going.'
Toronto has 10 games remaining in the lockout-shortened season. The last time the Maple Leafs made the postseason was before the 2005 lockout season.
``It was a big game for us, the team closest in the standings,' said Reimer, who is 5-1-3 in his last nine appearances. ``It kind of feels like a playoff game, so it was good for us to get the win, I thought the boys played great.'
David Clarkson deprived Reimer of his second shutout in three games with a goal with 8:23 left, but the Devils fell to 0-3-3 in their last six games.
The six-game skid is the second one this season for New Jersey, following an 8-1-3 start. The defending conference champions haven't won since top forward Ilya Kovalchuk injured a shoulder.
``There is some frustration in not winning,' coach Pete DeBoer said. ``Whether we win 1-0 or 2-1, we have to find ways to win games. That's the bottom line and that's where the frustration lies. The solution has to come from within the room.'
Komarov scored early in the first period to stake Toronto to a 1-0 lead, and Bozak tallied midway through the third to double the advantage.
Komarov's second goal was scored when he deflected a shot from the point by defenseman Mark Fraser past defenseless Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. The 26-year-old Komarov had missed the previous six games because of an upper body injury.
The Devils had a great chance to tie the game when Nikolai Kulemin and James Van Riemsdyk were called for minor penalties 56 seconds apart, with the second coming at 14:02.
New Jersey, which was beaten by Boston 1-0 on Thursday night despite getting 40 shots, had none against Reimer in the two-man advantage.
Andy Greene had the best chance but his shot from the point was blocked.
``The table was set for us, and we didn't take advantage of it,' DeBoer said.
Bozak's 11th goal of the season was a little fluky. He took a lead pass from Phil Kessel, broke in on Brodeur and nudged a shot on goal. Brodeur got the blade of his stick on the puck, but it popped up and rolled into the net before Steve Bernier could stop it.
``The guy kind of caught me from behind, and I just tried to chip it, and it was lucky enough to cross the line,' Bozak said.
Clarkson beat Reimer with a shot between the pads after defenseman Marek Zidlicky made a pass to spring him for a break in.
The only reason the Devils weren't ahead after the first period was Reimer. He made outstanding stops on Adam Henrique from the left circle and on a couple of chances in front by Stephen Gionta. His best save was an uncontested pad stop on a rebound attempt by Steve Sullivan, who was acquired by the Devils on Wednesday from Phoenix for a second tour with New Jersey.
``He was huge,' Van Riemsdyk said of Reimer. ``We got in penalty trouble in the first period and he stood tall for us.'
Brodeur, who made his eighth straight start since returning from a back injury, didn't have much work but he kept the goal-challenged Devils in the game with an in-close stop on Kessel.
Both teams hit a goal post in the first period.
Devils defenseman Mark Fayne had his shot from the right point hit someone in the circle and deflect off the post. Clarke MacArthur hit the post late in the period.
The Maple Leafs played without Joffrey Lupul, who was out with an undisclosed injury sustained on Thursday against Philadelphia. He had five goals and five assists in his last five games.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said Lupul was evaluated by medical personnel on Saturday, and added that the forward hopes to skate on Sunday.
NOTES: Kovalchuk is close to returning, DeBoer said. ... Maple Leafs leading scorer Nazem Kadri appeared to hurt his left knee after being tripped by Fayne in the second period. He was down on the ice for a while but returned soon after. ... The 38-year-old Sullivan played parts of two seasons with the Devils from 1995-1997. He later played for Toronto.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved