Maple Leafs Easily Beat Devils In Annual Hall of Fame Game
Toronto had all the bounces go their way, all the floaters and all the scoring, too, in a 6-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in annual Hall of Fame Game.
But the best part about the win might have been how half their goals came from the bottom six forwards.
The line of Par Lindholm, Connor Brown and Andreas Johnsson had a particularly solid night on offence.
Johnsson bagged his first goal of the season, ending a drought that was eating away at his confidence.
The 23-year-old was driving to the net and found a Jake Gardiner rebound, flipping the puck over Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid to give the Leafs a 4-1 lead. That followed misses on a breakaway and on a two on one.
“We’ve been feeling good together for the last couple of games,” Johnsson said of his line. “We’re three fast skaters and we try to take advantage of our speed. We try to get the puck down low and cycle it. I think so far we’ve been successful as a line.”
Brown also scored, burying his second goal in as many games.
For Johnsson, the season so far has been a combination of hard work and no results. Babcock said during training camp he wanted more from the winger, who starred with the AHL Marlies last year.
But with no goals in his 10 games this season, Johnsson was in a battle to keep his confidence levels high.
“He’s a great player,” Rielly said. “He’s had chances, so when you get one like he did, it helps the confidence. But it’s not like he hasn’t been playing well.”
The Leafs (11-5) won their third straight on home ice, evening their home record at 5-5, and bagged some more valuable points in the standings as they trek along without injured star Auston Matthews (shoulder) and William Nylander (contract).
The Leafs now sit three points back of the first-place Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division and while it’s only November, the big picture is always in focus: home-ice advantage in the playoffs. That’s a key goal, one underlined by the players and coaching staff from the outset of training camp.
Johnsson, like the rest of the Leafs players, were inspired by the Hall of Fame players on hand for the game.
The Leafs celebrated this year’s induction group and helped fete them by having several past inductees on hand.
One of the past greats was Peter Forsberg, who certainly caught Johnsson’s eye.
“Yes, he was (an inspiration) but I never met him,” Johnsson said.
Another inspiration for many: Willie O’Ree.
Next up for the Leafs is a visit to the Boston Bruins on Saturday evening.