TORONTO – The Toronto Maple Leafs looked every bit like a team that was playing its third game in four nights early on Tuesday.
After defeating the New York Rangers in convincing fashion Monday, the sluggish Leafs spotted New Jersey two power-play goals in the first period before clawing back to force overtime in the Devils’ 3-2 win.
David Clarkson scored twice, including the winner at 2:40 of the extra period, as the Devils won for the first time in five games.
Clarkson scored the winner off the rush after taking a feed from Dainius Zubrus in the slot. His quick shot beat Leafs goalie James Reimer through his pads.
The Leafs salvaged a point despite being completely outplayed in the first period.
“We weren’t ready to start the game,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose team was outshot 11-4 in the opening period. “We just didn’t have our legs and our minds into it and New Jersey was sharp, ready and they took advantage of us.”
Ilya Kovalchuk had the other goal for the Devils (13-12-1), who got 31 saves from Martin Brodeur.
Kovalchuck wired a one-time shot off the post and in past Reimer on the power play at 5:03 of the first. Clarkson then beat a helpless Reimer at 8:59 on another New Jersey man advantage.
“That Kovalchuk, I think he’s scored a few before in this league,” said Reimer, who made 23 saves in his second start since coming back from injury. “I felt that I played pretty good for the most part. The biggest thing for me is that I just felt way more comfortable in there today.”
Phil Kessel, with his 17th of the season, and Matt Frattin replied for Toronto (15-10-3). Kessel’s goal tied him with Chicago’s Jonathan Toews atop the NHL scoring race.
The Leafs showed some fight after going down two goals and Kessel got Toronto back in it at 11:29 of the second. Joffrey Lupul threw a puck in front that bounced off Kessel’s skate and past Brodeur.
“A coach is never happy with the entire game. I loved our first period. I liked our third. The second I could throw out but we’ve got work to do,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. “It’s still a work in progress but we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Frattin tied it at 1:56 of the third on a great individual effort. After picking up the puck near the left-wing boards, Frattin held off Adam Larsson before beating Brodeur.
Despite the loss, Reimer was glad to see his team come back after a rough start.
“Playing a lot of games in just a short amount of days and then the travel last night and then to be down 2-0, we could have thrown in the towel and gave up and we didn’t,” Reimer said. “I thought we dominated for most of the last two periods and that shows a ton about our team. We deserved the two points but we for sure deserved the one point.”
The Leafs had a chance to win in late in regulation on the power play after New Jersey’s Patrik Elias took an undisciplined slashing penalty with 2:16 left in regulation, but Toronto failed to capitalize as the Devils and Brodeur hung on to force overtime.
“Late in the third we were just trying to throw pucks on net and Brodeur’s a great goalie,” Frattin said. “You can definitely tell he’s playing with confidence.”
Notes: The Leafs announced forward Clarke MacArthur is day-to-day with an upper body injury. … Attendance at Air Canada Centre was 19,514. … New Jersey finished 2-for-4 on the power play, while Toronto wound up 0-for-2.