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The New Jersey Devils' bid at their second five-game winning streak in a month came to an end their last time out, but they're still one of the NHL's hottest teams of late.
The Toronto Maple Leafs would love to be able to say the same.
The Leafs will try to win a third straight game for the first time since March on Tuesday when they host a New Jersey team that's coming off its first loss in December.
The Devils (16-9-2) have gone 9-2-0 since Nov. 15, and even though they're fourth in the crowded Atlantic Division, they've moved within striking distance of the first-place New York Rangers.
New Jersey has scored nearly four goals a game over the past month, and on Friday night against the Rangers delivered the franchise's best offensive performance in more than three years. Seven Devils scored in an 8-5 rout of New York, the most goals for New Jersey since a 9-0 win at Pittsburgh on Oct. 28, 2000.
The Devils' offense, however, wasn't nearly as efficient Saturday against Buffalo. After New Jersey took a 2-1 lead early in the second period, the Sabres scored the final three goals to win 4-2 and snap the Devils' four-game winning streak.
"It was a game for us to win and we didn't," said center Bobby Holik, who scored his first goal of the season. "I think we played right into their hands. I think we had a great opportunity to continue our streak but we didn't play smart enough."
New Jersey got another goal from Patrik Elias, the third straight game in which he's scored. After scoring in the Devils' first two games, the left wing scored twice in 13 games between Oct. 13-Nov. 12. In his last 12 games, though, Elias has nine goals and 11 assists.
Elias, however, hasn't had much luck against the Maple Leafs (11-12-6) in recent years, scoring twice in his last 16 games versus Toronto.
The Leafs' most recent game was also against Buffalo, but they came away with a win. Ian White scored for the second straight game, and that third-period goal was enough for Toronto to win 2-1 on the road Friday.
"We still gave up a few too many chances, but they weren't able to score," said goaltender Vesa Toskala, who made his eighth straight start. "But I think we're moving in the right direction. We just keep improving as a team and trying to get better every game."
Toronto last won three straight from March 18-22.
Toskala's had a disappointing first two months, but he's making progress since a rough start. He began the season 7-6-4 with a 3.33 goals-against average, but in his last eight starts Toskala is 4-3-1 with a 2.49 GAA.
Part of that improvement is due to the Leafs doing a better job of killing penalties. Toronto was letting its opponents score 26.8 percent of the time with the man advantage through Nov. 26, but has killed off all but two of its opponents' past 26 power-play chances.
Toronto had lost four in a row to the Devils prior to a 6-5 shootout win in New Jersey on Oct. 29. Toskala is 1-3-0 with a 3.47 GAA in four career starts against the Devils.
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