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Winter meltdown: Leafs hope to snap skid vs. Devils
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyed a memorable win on New Year's Day, but little has gone right for the club since.
The Leafs hope to avoid a fifth consecutive loss since their victory in the Winter Classic as they play host on Sunday night to the New Jersey Devils.
Since beating the Detroit Red Wings outdoors on Jan. 1, Toronto has been outscored 21-7 over its longest skid since dropping a season-high five in a row from Nov. 25-Dec. 3.
After losing by a five-goal margin at Carolina on Thursday, the Maple Leafs were more competitive in a 3-2 setback to the hosting Washington Capitals the following night.
Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk each posted a goal and an assist for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan Bernier gave up all three goals on 35 shots.
"We had some unlucky bounces tonight and that's the way it goes for us," said Bernier. "I thought we all played really hard out there tonight and had a good game, just came up short."
Bernier, who beat the Red Wings in the Winter Classic, has yielded 12 goals in three straight setbacks, while fellow netminder James Reimer has yielded 11 goals in his past three appearances, including two starts.
Reimer is 4-1-2 with a 2.04 goals against average in seven career starts versus the Devils, while Bernier is 1-1-0 with a 1.92 GAA in two meetings. He got the start in the first of three encounters this season, posting 34 saves in a 2-1 shootout win at home over New Jersey on Nov. 8.
Kessel tallied in regulation and van Riemsdyk had the shootout winner, giving the Maple Leafs their fifth victory in a row over the Devils. That includes three straight as the host.
Toronto is 6-0-2 in its past eight over New Jersey overall.
Michael Ryder had a goal and Cory Schneider made 27 saves in the most recent setback to the Leafs.
Ryder scored for a fourth game in a row on Saturday night in a 2-1 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers, while the biggest goal of the game went to Marek Zidlicky. The defenseman's eighth tally of the campaign came with just 2.1 seconds left on the clock and gave New Jersey a 2-0-1 mark on its three-game homestand.
With just seconds left on the clock, Travis Zajac won an offensive draw back to Jaromir Jagr, who then quickly sent a pass that Zidlicky one-timed into the upper right corner of the net.
"I can tell you we draw up a thousand faceoff plays over the course of a season and they very rarely work," said Devils head coach Peter DeBoer. "You either lose a draw or you don't get a bounce. The credit was to the execution. Zajac, Jagr and Zid and (Steve) Bernier did a great job."
Jagr's assist on the play gave him 1,724 career points, moving him pass Hall of Famer and former teammate Mario Lemieux for sole possession of seventh place on the NHL's all-time list.
Schneider, fresh off a 26-save shutout of Dallas on Thursday, turned back 29 shots to help New Jersey prevail. He is expected to get a third straight start tonight when the Devils begin a four-game road trip.
Schneider, who will face the Maple Leafs for just the second time in his career, would make three straight starts for the second time this season. He is 7-9-5 with a 1.97 GAA, .921 save percentage and three shutouts in 21 starts this season.
01/12 10:46:40 ET