NEWARK, N.J. — If the New Jersey Devils are going to make a run at the playoffs, they are going to have to win games in which they don’t play well.
That is just what they did against the reeling Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 29.
Jacob Josefson and Patrik Elias scored in the shootout, Cory Schneider made 29 saves through overtime, and the Devils rallied late to beat Toronto 2-1, extending the Maple Leafs’ losing streak to a season-high seven games.
“Any win is a good win for us at this point,” Elias said. “It wasn’t an easy game coming of the (All-Star) break. We just didn’t have it going. Schneids kept us in there for the first two, and we found a way to tie it up after they scored.”
That’s the kind of play the Devils are going to need to make up a 13-point deficit in the Eastern Conference wild-card race.
They are 5-2-1 in their last eight games, and this win came with an unexpected seeing-eye goal from defenseman Adam Larsson with 2:50 left in regulation off a nice pass by Martin Havlat.
“I didn’t see it,” said Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, who made 22 saves. “It was a good shot. Those are the ones you have to (stop).”
Larsson smiled sheepishly when asked if he was shooting for the corner of the net on his second goal of the season and fifth of his career. “I was just trying to get the shot past the first layer of players,” he said.
The goal wiped out the advantage Toronto had built minutes earlier on James van Riemsdyk’s breakaway tally.
The shootout win was the Devils’ third in nine this season.
Bernier made a pad save on Scott Gomez on the Devils’ first shootout attempt, but Josefson and Elias beat him with backhanders on the next two tries.
Mike Santorelli missed the net on Toronto’s first attempt, and Schneider stopped Tyler Bozak on the second.
“We had plenty of chances,” Toronto interim coach Peter Horachek said. “We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”
Until the unlikely goal by Larsson, it appeared that van Riemsdyk’s goal with 8:11 left in regulation would be the winner. It capped a breakout play on which former Devils forward David Clarkson sent a pass between his legs to Bozak, who made a nifty pass to spring van Riemsdyk in alone on Schneider.
“It’s been a tough stretch for us, there’s no hiding that,” van Riemsdyk said.
Bernier had kept Toronto ahead with a glove stop on a breakaway by Mike Cammalleri with roughly five minutes to play.
The only real action in the first two periods came during power plays.
Toronto had the best chances with the extra man but Schneider made two outstanding stops on van Riemsdyk. The first was a skate save against the goal post after the forward backhanded a shot between his legs in the opening period. The second was a glove save from point-blank range late in the second period after Bozak made a no-look pass.
Schneider was at his best in the second period, stopping a breakaway by Santorelli midway through the period. He then got lucky about a minute later when Leo Komarov banged a shot off the post from the left circle.
“This is a game earlier in the year we would not have won,” Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who is guiding the team along with assistant coach Adam Oates and Scott Stevens since the firing of Pete DeBoer.
Bernier faced only 13 shots in the first two periods. His best save was a pad stop on Havlat’s shot from just inside the right circle during a power play.
(TOM CANAVAN, AP Sports Writer)