"They didn't earn it": Devils coach Ruff says his team gave away game to Leafs

Mar 8 2023, 3:16 pm

New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff wasn’t all too complimentary of the Toronto Maple Leafs in their win over his team last night.

Ruff’s Devils were up 3-2 on home ice on Tuesday night against Toronto, with the win well within reach for his team.

But two quick goals by the visitors — started by a rush finished off by Leafs forward Michael Bunting — saw Toronto walk away with a 4-3 regulation win.

“With five minutes left, the other team should have to earn the opportunity,” Ruff said. “They didn’t earn it. We gave it to them. We didn’t stay on the puck on the tying goal. We didn’t come back hard enough, and they get to walk in and tie the game.”

 

When asked about why he thought that Toronto didn’t “earn it,” Ruff reiterated his frustrations about his team’s defence on Bunting’s game-tying goal.

“They didn’t have to earn that rush goal where they went right through us,” Ruff added. “You’re out there, you know you have a [one] goal lead. Don’t give up an opportunity.”

Auston Matthews scored the winning goal for the Leafs on the power play just 1:57 later, while Timo Meier was serving a high-sticking penalty.

Meier, who was making his Devils’ home debut after a high-profile trade from San Jose, said he’d learn from the mistake.

“I should keep my stick down. It’s just kind of how it goes tonight,” Meier said. “I will start learning from it, and it’s going to motivate me to get better and make sure this is not going to happen again. The next time we’re in this position, we’re going to turn the game to our side.”

As for Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, he seemed to back his team’s resilience to get back into the game.

“It was kind of back and forth through the third. The fact that our guys stuck with it with some key plays — some clutch plays at key times — was really great. A great way to finish the trip,” Keefe told reporters.

Keefe also added some praise for Bunting, who found himself demoted to the third line earlier this week.

“You hope he feels good about it, of course, and that it could help take some of the pressure off and help him relax,” Keefe added. “He has the ability to finish plays like that for sure. Great job putting himself in a good spot… I loved the finish there.”

The Leafs are now off until Saturday, when they take on the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Arena. Puck drop for that one is set for 7 pm ET, with the game being broadcast on Sportsnet and CBC.

Adam LaskarisAdam Laskaris

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