Toronto goalie Matt Murray made 34 saves and was the beneficiary of three New Jersey goals that were disallowed -- the third of which caused fans to litter the ice in protest in the third period, forcing the Leafs to briefly retreat to the locker room area for safety.
"You don't often see three in one game. But we saw three in one game," said Devils coach Lindy Ruff.
The Devils tied a franchise record with 13 consecutive wins when they defeated the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night. New Jersey previously won 13 straight games from Feb. 16 to March 23, 2001. The current streak started Oct. 25 and fueled New Jersey's stunning surge to the top of the Metropolitan Division (16-4-0) after finishing 28th in the NHL last season.
The Devils' winning streak tied for the fifth-longest in NHL history and was four games shy of the record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993.
"It was a little bit frustrating. It just seemed like it wasn't quite in control in some ways, and then it got crazy," said forward Eric Haula. "Tough luck for us. Tough bounces. If [the streak] was going to end, it was going to end like that. A complete hurricane."
Tavares scored at 11:41 of the first period on a feed from Mitch Marner, who extended his point streak to 14 games. Holmberg's first NHL goal made it 2-0 at 14:03.
The game marred by a delay in the third period when fans littered the ice following the third instance in which a Devils goal was disallowed.
In the first period, the Devils failed on a coach's challenge for goalie interference, as the on-ice officials waved off a Jonas Siegenthaler goal. The NHL Situation Room ruled that forward Nathan Bastian "had a significant presence in the crease which impaired Matt Murray's ability to play his position."
"It's a hit or miss. If they called it a goal, you may have had them challenge. He has to make an effort to get out of the goalie's way," said Ruff.
But it was a goal waved off in the third period that set off the crowd. Haula kicked the puck off of Leafs forward Nick Robertson's skate and into the net. It was ruled a goal on the ice but was overturned by the NHL Situation Room.
According to Rule 49.2, "A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official."
When the decision was announced, the fans tossed garbage onto the ice in protest. Toronto's players and coaches left their bench for the dressing room area. Devils players signaled for the fans to stop.
"We've got some passionate fans and I think it was on display tonight," said Ruff.
Hamilton's goal in the third period turned that anger into cheers, giving the Devils late momentum. But they couldn't get the equalizer, and their epic winning streak was stopped one victory short of a franchise record.