Archive for March, 2012
Saturday, March 31st, 2012
By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs snapped a franchise-high 11-game home losing streak, as they put a dent into the Buffalo Sabres playoff hopes with a 4-3 victory.
Ben Scrivens, thrust into duty thanks to a knee injury to Jonas Gustavsson, made his first NHL start since November 20th. He showed no signs of big league rust making 29 saves to earn his first ever NHL win on home ice.
“This team was maybe a little bit fragile so I wanted to come in and make as many saves as I could” said Scrivens. “All the credit goes to these guys they’ve had a lot of pressure on them both internally and externally.”
The Maple Leafs were able to use special teams to their advantage.
In the first period, Toronto opened the scoring after Andrej Sekera whiffed on a pass from the blue-line, allowing Joey Crabb a breakaway of roughly 130 ft. He’d make no mistake putting it in top shelf on Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.
While dominating the special teams battle was huge for this Leafs team that has had little success in doing so lately, it was the level of compete that ultimately shone through.
“Overall what was better was the battle, the compete level” said Crabb. “All the way down to the last minute, we had to battle and everyone did a good job of that.”
Phil Kessel scored his career high 37th goal of the season. Kessel was on pace for well over 40 goals before the recent slide curbed everyone on the roster. That was evident for Maple Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle as well.
“It’d be really nice for Phil Kessel to get 40 goals,” said Carlyle. “That’s not putting pressure on him, just saying that’d be a nice number to get. With him, he’s got a skill-set that separates himself from others in the league. He can make something out of nothing and he’s dangerous player every time he steps on the ice.”
With three games remaining, Kessel would have to score an average of a goal per game in order to attain 40 goals. His goal tonight gave him five for the month, matching December and January as his least productive months. If five is the fewest you score in a month, that’s not half bad.
Kessel’s goal came on the power play, rounding out a solid special teams performance. Carlyle pointed out several occasions that winning the battle of special teams are crucial to winning games.
John-Michael snapped a seven-game goalless drought, while Matt Frattin scored what would hold-up as the game winner, his first in 12 games.
The win didn’t come easy. The Sabres (dog-tired from their game against the Penguins the night before) fought back to make the game interesting.
Drew Stafford’s goal with 2:45 to go in regulation had the Leafs on their heels a little bit. But in the final minute, Toronto continued to forecheck. They pushed deep in Buffalo’s zone, playing confident and with no fear. It was reminiscent of how this team played before their slide.
Joey Crabb’s short-handed goal was just the fifth man-disadvantage goal this season for the Leafs. The last time Toronto scored a short-handed goal was December 23rd. Back then, the Leafs improved to 18-13-4 and were sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres were 11th. Amazing how fast things can turn.
Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
By: David Alter
Jonas Gustavsson’s struggles between the pipes led to a Leafs 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The loss means the Maple Leafs are mathematically eliminated from the post-season. It’s an epic free-fall considering this team was nine-games over .500 on February 6th.
“As an organization it’s very disappointing,” said Phil Kessel who will finish with a season high in points and has already matched his high in goals. “It doesn’t matter if you have a good individual season or not we’re here to win as a hockey team.”
Since the winning days, the Leafs have gone 5-16-3. They fired their coach and replaced him with Randy Carlyle. It was a move that hasn’t brought immediate success.
This night resembled many here at Air Canada Centre. Questionable goals allowed leading to angst from the fans. Heavy boos, Bronx cheers…you name it. The Leafs have lost ten straight games at home and will now miss out on the post-season for the seventh consecutive season.
“It’s tough we’d love to play in the playoffs here, especially in Toronto,” said Carl Gunnarsson. “It’s never fun losing the playoffs. We’ve got a good group. I like this group I know what we can do when we play well.”
Prior to the game, all signs pointed to James Reimer getting the start in goal. Just over a couple of hours prior to game time, the Maple Leafs would call up Jussi Rynnas from the Marlies on emergency, while announcing that Reimer was sidelined with an “upper body” injury.
“He got a shot yesterday at practice and he was feeling ill and didn’t feel right so for precautionary reasons we thought it’d be good for him to get a chance to rest today” said Head Coach Randy Carlyle. “I was surprised as anybody at 1 o’clock as I was getting ready to go home for the afternoon and I walked by the training room and was informed that he wouldn’t be available to us tonight.”
What’s not clear right now is if Reimer’s feeling ill has anything to do with concussion symptoms that had kept him out of the lineup for about six weeks.
Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring at the 13:05 mark of the first period. The goal made Gustavsson look bad, despite a deflection by defenceman Cody Franson.
A little over five minutes later, former Maple Leaf forward Tim Brent would beat Gustavsson. The Hurricanes would take that two goal lead into the second period, where it would only take 37 seconds when another former leaf (Jay Harrison) would beat Gustavsson on a routine shot, and Rynnas would be thrust into his first ever NHL appearance.
“You’re never happy when you get pulled No matter what kind of goals” said Gustavssson. “It was fun to see Jussi (Rynnas) come in and he played solid and did a good job.”
Rynnas made ten saves in relief, allowing zero goals.
From the get go, it appeared as though there was some reason for the Leafs slump and they would eventually find a way to dig out of it.
First it was the distraction of the trade deadline. Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke pointed to that being a hinderance of a large enough proportion to contemplate putting in his own self-imposed trade-deadline.
The deadline would come and go. With nothing that could be done from a roster standpoint, Burke would relieve Ron Wilson of his duties as Head Coach and put in Randy Carlyle.
Leaning on a tighter checking defensive-minded system, the Leafs haven’t been able to find much success.
“It seems to be more of an issue at home than it is on the road,” said Carlyle who has yet grab a win on home ice as coach of the Leafs. “We seem to play more intense or more conservative of whatever it is, that’s the frustrating part for us as a coaching staff. We want to win at home.”
Inexperience could play a large role in this. A relatively young team, there isn’t anyone to look to when times are tough. A lot of teams go through their slumps but usually find a way to pull out of it at some point. It simply hasn’t happened with this team and reasons within the club appear to be inexplicable.
“It hasn’t been a very good slide that we’ve been on, we’ve struggled and it’s disappointing to be mathematically out of it,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “It snowballed on us. We lost a lot of tight games and we could not recover or find a way out of it as a group.”
If that’s the case, it probably about time to start thinking about changing up the group.
Monday, March 26th, 2012
By: David Alter
The Maple Leafs may have three forwards make their return tomorrow night when they host the Carolina Hurricanes—a crucial game for the team in an effort to avoid being officially eliminated from the post-season.
Clarke MacArthur, Matt Frattin and Mike Brown all took part in practice and all three felt like they could play in tomorrow night’s game.
“We’ll make a decision on our lineup probably not until after the morning pre-game skate” said Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle.
Clarke MacArthur and Matt Frattin both took part in practice on Thursday before they leaving the session early
“It was one of those battle drills early I got my stick tied up and I fell down right on it” said MacArthur when referring to his injured shoulder. “It’s the second or third time that’s happened to me this season, it’s just bad luck, it’s time for a new pair of shoulder pads.”
The Leafs practiced for over ninety minutes today, working on battling for the puck around the boards.
“Just getting hit around it didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it was going to,” said MacArthur. “Hopefully I get the ok to play.”
Frattin has been dealing with a sore ankle, an injury that had been nagging him prior to the skate.
“I think it actually happened in the New York (Islanders) game,” said Frattin. “It just kept getting worse and worse and rubbing against the foot there I just needed a couple of days off.”
Nazem Kadri and Ryan Hamilton were both called up in an emergency situation to fill in for both players. Kadri scored a goal and had the shootout winner over in Jersey. Hamilton registered his first career NHL point (an assist of Kadri’s goal) in that same game.
Mike Brown took part in a full practice for the first time since he suffered what at first appeared to be a deep thigh contusion. But this injury had more to do with his knee.
“I went straight into the boards with my knee and they originally thought it was a bruise but it ended being a couple of torn muscles” said Brown. “I don’t know if it was from the impact or the whiplash or whatever it was but I got my knee in a pretty bad situation. I did the rehab the last couple of weeks and now I’m good to go.”
Friday, March 23rd, 2012
By: David Alter
(NEWARK) — Ryan Hamilton will make his NHL Debut tonight as the Maple Leafs visit the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.
It’s been a long road for Hamilton. In early 2009, Hamilton was traded by the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Robbie Earl. The Oshawa native then began to battle injuries. First he had a heart ablation which kept him out for a considerable amount of time. Hamilton then dealt with a knee injury last season.
“I’ve told my friends and family and the phone has been going off, it’s been a real exciting time” said Hamilton.
In the off-season, Hamilton resigned with the Maple Leafs. He has been healthy all-year while earning the captaincy.
“The statement I made to Dallas Eakins was who has earned it?” Head Coach Randy Carlyle asked. “The first name that came was Hamilton, the second name that came was Kadri so it was easy. From a coaching standpoint it gives you another chance to assess what you’ve got.”
Matt Frattin twisted his ankle towards the end of practice yesterday. That put the wheels in motion to call up Hamilton first. Clarke MacArthur (upper-body injury) was a decision the team had to make this morning. MacArthur’s absence guaranteed the beginning of Nazem Kadri’s third stint with the Maple Leafs this season.
James Reimer will make his sixth consecutive start in goal tonight while Martin Brodeur counters for New Jersey.
Carlyle hinted yesterday that the lineup we saw at practice wouldn’t necessarily be the same one that holds today. While Carter Ashton was on that top line yesterday, Don’t be surprised if Nazem Kadri or Ryan Hamilton get that opportunity up front.
“I haven’t really sat down and thought to much about it” said Carlyle about his line combos. “One things for sure is you don’t call up a top line forward and play him on the fourth line.”
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
By: David Alter
There are no answers right now. The Maple Leafs have no confidence and it was evident in their follow-up effort (or lack thereof) following a drubbing in Boston.
While the Maple leafs managed to score a pair of goals, they still had very little of an effort put forth offensively. Their 14 shots towards Evgeni Nabakov was just one more shot than the previous night in Boston. The end result is a 4-2 home loss to the New York Islanders.
James Reimer looked like the Reimer we have seen all too many times this season. He has managed to put forth back-to-back performances that present the appearance of turning things around, only to fall flat.
Case in point, Reimer’s return from concussion on December 3rd in Boston. He struggled his first three games back. Later in the month, he’d have a pair of back-to-back 40 saves performances against the Sabres and Kings, only to be chased out 23 minutes in, allowing three goals against the Panthers.
In Early February, Reimer is given the start to give Jonas Gustavsson a bit of a break. Reimer collects 25 saves for the shutout. Reimer would follow that up with another shutout against the Senators. He still manages to grab a victory against the Oilers after that, but the wheels would fall off quickly.
In Tampa and Ottawa, Reimer allows just one goal in both efforts. It appears as though his confidence may be restoring, but it quickly disappears when he is chased out in Boston after allowing four goals in nine shots.
Tonight, the Maple Leafs dropped their eight straight at home.
“We want to come out and we want to win, especially at home,” said Reimer about the home losing streak. “It’s tough, we want this place to be an intimidating place to play and right now that’s not the case.”
It was a lengthy wait for media to get access to the players following the game. The coach and players held a team meeting where Head Coach Randy Carlyle held a Q & A. While not revealing the nature of the conversation, the theme was disappointment.
It all boils down to one thing, a lack of confidence.
“Right now it seems as though the confidence level is at where it was when I came around in Montreal,” said Carlyle who also deflected any blame that was directed at Reimer. “The one thing about the goaltending situation here right now is that it mirrors the group.”
Carlyle feels his roster has what it takes to get out of this rut. The Leafs have shown little evidence of doing so.
“We played well for most of the night except for a few breakdowns which cost us,” said captain Dion Phaneuf. “We want to turn this around and build some confidence and put something together. We’ve got to stick with it, nobody is happy with the way things have gone.”
These remaining two weeks will be telling. If the effort level continues to dip, a massive reconstruct of this hockey club could be in order.
Monday, March 19th, 2012
BOSTON – Like the Bruins have done all season, Boston demoralized the Maple Leafs as they beat down Toronto 8-0 to clean sweep the season series.
Any momentum James Reimer and the Maple Leafs appeared to gain over the past two games vanished quicker than any small increment of hope they may have had of making a run at the post-season after a pair of back-to-back victories.
The Leafs fell apart just 2:25 into the game. Luke Schenn was unsuccessful in a clearing attempt. The puck would find Chris Kelly who would dance around a diving Reimer allowing the left side of the goal completely wide open.
3:15 later, Reimer would lose sight of the puck, allowing unlikely goal scorer Gregory Campbell to make it a 2-0 game.
A deflection would lead to Benoit Pouliot’s 11th of the season, and the rout was officially on.
3-0 Boston Bruins and at this point the Leafs had failed to record a single shot on goal.
Jay Rosehill would take a roughing penalty shortly afterwards which sparked a fight between Luke Schenn and Campbell. The Bruins would score on the power play to make it a 4-0 Boston Lead. James Reimer pulled after allowing four goals on nine shots.
“We have to find a way to be better prepared and be a better hockey team,” said Reimer. “I’ve honestly never seen anything like that before. I’m not quite sure why one team seems to have such an advantage.
The Bruins took all 12 points in the season series. The Maple Leafs weren’t able to garner a measly point by way of overtime or shootout loss during the season against Boston. The Bruins outscored the Maple Leafs 36-8.
“We can’t really point to any one thing right now that we did well” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “As a coaching staff we have to take some responsibility by not having the team ready to compete.”
Not sure what else Carlyle could have done. He’d been working the team pretty hard since he took over. Perhaps he’ll give the team more rest for what has been the end of a grueling five-game road trip.
The one thing the team may have done well, was try to spark some momentum by starting some fights. Mike Komisarek bravely tested the waters as he tangled with Milan Lucic and took a few uppercuts for it.
“At that point your down a couple of goals and we don’t have any shots on net. Schenny steps up and tries to show up and I’m not gonna wait for Grabo to go out and fight their tough guy” said Komisarek. “You go out there and you just try to show up, give a couple licks and take a couple of licks and step up I guess.”
Jonas Gustavsson didn’t fair much better in relief of Reimer. He paid the price in the second period when he skated behind the net mishandling the puck, allowing Brian Rolston to find Pouliot for his second goal of the game. Zdeno Chara scored on the power-play to make it a half-dozen lead. Brian Rolston capped the second period with the team’s seventh goal.
The Bruins had seven goals after 40 minutes. The Leafs had seven…shots. That’s right. The Bruins goals and Leafs shot total was identical at seven.
Tyler Seguin would cap the scoring late in the third period. It wouldn’t have been a Bruins/Leafs regular season game if not for Seguin to add insult to injury. Seguin had points in five of the six games against the Leafs totallying seven goals and four assists for 11 points.
“It was just a poor effort by everybody,” said Clark MacArthur.
“It’s just not acceptable to not be ready to start games” captain Dion Phaneuf echoed.
The Leafs played as poor as they have all season (and there have been some poor showings) and their 13 shots on goal, is the lowest they have registered in a single game since Game 2 of their second round playoff series against the Flyers. In that game they fell to Philadelphia 7-2. For a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since that time, it’s an eerie reminder.
Monday, March 19th, 2012
By: David Alter
BOSTON — Randy Carlyle meets the Boston Bruins for the second time as Maple Leafs Head Coach tonight at TD Garden.
Carlyle made his home debut as Leafs Head Coach against these Bruins on March 6th, a game where Toronto fell 5-4 to Boston. By all accounts, it was the best all-round performance by the Leafs against the Bruins the season, a series which Boston dominates 5-0.
“With us, we’ve made some areas of improvement” says Carlyle about the Leafs progress since that previous meeting. “There are areas we expect a level of improvement all-around. We’re better in certain small areas, be it stop-and-go and be it the power-play. As a coaching staff we expect better.”
The Maple Leafs have won their lasts two games, their first winning streak since their massive slide which put them out of the playoff conversation. With recent results involving the Capitals (keepers of eight in the East) as well as the recent Leaf victories, a Toronto win and Capitals loss could move the team to within four points of eight. More importantly, a win over Boston would lift the monkey off their back, with respect to the Bruins domination in the season series.
“I don’t think we’re in a position where we can say we’re using this game as a measuring stick” says Carlyle. “We have a template that we are trying to create that we’re trying to play to.”
James Reimer will make his fourth straight start in goal tonight. It’s also his first visit to TD Garden since he returned after six weeks absence due to a concussion on December 3rd.
“I thought we played well” Reimer said when talking about the last meetings between these two teams. “They’re a beatable team that’s for sure.”
The Bruins have been struggling as of late. They snapped a season-high four-game losing streak on Saturday, a span in which they gave up 21 goals.
“We felt like we played really well against Philly on Saturday and we want to carry that over into tonight’s game” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “I don’t think it gets easier (tonight) and I don’t think it matters what’s happened against this team earlier this season. We still have to approach it with the same mentality as we have in the previous games with them.”
Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien is also noticing changes within the Leafs game since Carlyle’s arrival.
“You’re starting to see Randy’s imprint on the team in different areas, even the forecheck and their D zone” said Julien. “Certainly it’s a lot to put on his plate in this short amount of time, but you can see it’s starting to change – his philosophies and his approach to the game is starting to show. That hasn’t been overlooked by our group here in watching them play lately.”
The Bruins find themselves in a battle with the Ottawa Senators for top spot in the Northeast division. Ottawa sits on top of Boston by a single point, while the Bruins hold two games in hand.
“Every team is battling for a certain position” said Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara. “Playoffs, home-ice advantage, you name it. Fighting for jobs next year, there is just so much importance in these types of games for any type of club.”
The Maple Leafs will keep the lineup the way it is. Cody Franson will be the only healthy scratch tonight.
Tim Thomas starts in goal for Boston.
Saturday, March 17th, 2012
By: David Alter
OTTAWA — It’s an often-used cliché when a team uses the excuse “the puck didn’t bounce our way.” It was commonly heard from the Maple Leafs when they were going through their massive slide that started in early February. On this night, a bounce definitely went their way…An awkward one that ended up being key in the Leafs 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
James Reimer continued his dominance at Scotiabank Place. He’s now 4-0 in Ottawa and was 1:09 away from grabbing back-to-back shutouts in this building, only to have Colin Greening play spoiler. More importantly, Reimer got back-to-back victories, something this team hasn’t done since their early February swoon.
“A good couple of games don’t mean anything unless you keep it going,” said Reimer. “Tonight was good but it won’t mean much if we go to Boston and don’t have another good game.
The first goal of the game gave the Maple Leafs a lead they would never give up and they wouldn’t even score it.
Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson went to clear the puck behind the net. During his attempt, he put it off Sens netminder Ben Bishop’s leg and into the net. Tim Connolly would get his first goal in 11 games as a result. He didn’t even have to put it in himself.
“He’s had his fair share of issues as far as creating offence so we’ve assigned him the role of a checker” said Randy Carlyle. “He had a lot of blocked shots. When you’re winning faceoffs and blocking shots you win hockey games.”
Connolly was on the ice as the forward for a third period 5-on-3 disadvantage. In addition to his blocked shots, Connolly spotted Jason Spezza’s kicking motion in what appeared to cut the Leafs lead in half. He went immediately to the official, which set the wheels inmotion for the play to be reviewed. With that, the call was overturned.
The game lived up to the billing of being the ‘Battle of Ontario.’
In the first period, unlikely combatants Clarke MacArthur and Sergei Gonchar would be involved a scrap. For Gonchar, it was just his second career fight. For MacArthur, it was his first fight of the season.
“I was going hard to the net and he gave me a couple of whacks, I went up ice and he slashed me again” said MacArthur of what started the fight. “Obvious the wires touched and that’s what happens.”
In the second period, Nick Foligno and Luke Schenn got involved in a fight. During the altercation, Mikhail Grabovski and Chris Neil would go to blows. Neil (a heavyweight) battling Grabovski, who wound up grabbing his first ever fighting major in the NHL.
“I think we learned that Grabovski is a lefty” Carlyle joked of his forward’s fighting ability.
Because the fight happened during the same stoppage after the Foligno/Schenn Brawl, both were given game misconducts, with Grabovski getting a second for not having his jersey tied down.
“Every guy went up to Grabo at the end of the second (period) to give him a pat on the back” said Mike Komisarek, who told his teammates during the intermission that if that type of scrap doesn’t get you fired up, nothing will.
Phil Kessel would score his 35th of the season while Dion Phaneuf capped the Leafs scoring.
The consecutive victories move the Leafs to six points out of a playoff spot with just ten games to go. It’s a long-shot, but it doesn’t look like the ready to rollover just yet.
Saturday, March 17th, 2012
By: David Alter
It really just goes to show you that anything can change throughout the course of the season.
The Maple Leafs will take on the Senators for the first time since February 4th. It was on that very night, James Reimer recorded the second of back-to-back shutouts to put the Maple Leafs at eight games over the .500 mark.
The Senators dropped their sixth, in what would end up being a season high seven-game losing streak. The Maple Leafs were ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
Six weeks later, the Senators pull out of their slump and as of this writing, sit first in the Northeast and second in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile the Leafs go on a massive swoon, registering just six points in the span of 17 games. Ron Wilson is fired as Head Coach and Randy Carlyle is brought in.
February 4th was a turning point for both clubs.
“We didn’t like the way we were headed and we felt like we had to turn the ship around” said Senators forward Nick Foligno. “I think we see that in the last month and a bit, the product of our hard work is really paying off right now.”
Since that night, Reimer struggled with his confidence before finally putting in a couple of solid performances under coach Carlyle in Florida. Reimer’s best games have come against the Senators. He is 4-1-1 lifetime with a save percentage of .940 and a goals against average of 1.82, including a perfect 3-0 at Scotiabank Place.
“Hopefully we can make it four-for-four” Reimer joked. “With it being the battle of Ontario and the extra support we get from the fans I think we get up for it a little bit.”
Randy Carlyle has yet to decided on if he’d go with the same seven defencemen or place Rosehill back in. “We only have one option” says Carlyle in reference to the injuries they have gone through including the inability to call anyone up.
The Senators will go with the same lineup as the one that beat the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime last night. Head Coach Paul MacLean spent some time watching the Leafs morning skate. Unclear if this is a habit of his, or if it was moreso to scout a whole new Leafs team under Carlyle.
Them’s Fightin’ Words?
When discussing his lineup for tonight, MacLean was asked why he didn’t decided to put in tougher guys like Matt Carkner or Zenon Kenopka. “Well the games haven’t been as truculent as they might have been in the past” says MacLean. “We’ve had them in the lineup earlier in the year, the game (now) seems to be more of a skills based game.”
I can only wonder who MacLean was referring to when using the T-word there.
Thursday, March 15th, 2012
TAMPA–It felt like the Maple Leafs of the not too distant past. James Reimer was solid and the Leafs were scoring goals against Tampa, something the team has been particularly good at this season.
In front of a packed, pro-Leaf crowd at Tampa Bay Times Forum, The Maple Leafs turned in a complete performance, grabbing a 3-1 victory.
Reimer was tested often, particularly towards the end of the first period when he had to make several difficult saves. He flashed the leather from a shot down low by Martin St. Louis. He stayed at the top of the crease for the most part exuding a confidence that had up until now eluded him in 2012. With the Leafs shorthanded, he made a diving toe save to rob Teddy Purcell of a sure goal. He was vintage (if you can call it that in his very short career) Reimer.
In his previous start Reimer looked nervous. It was his first game under Randy Carlyle as Head Coach. He ended up allowing a goal just a minute into that that game. But the goals he gave up afterwards were deflected or really well placed shots. Carlyle felt he saw enough in South Florida to warrant giving Reimer another go. The confidence he showed in Reimer paid off.
“Obviously I’d like to get in as often as possible” said Reimer. “Randy has been great. He’s told me what he wants to see from me and I’ve tried to listen and do my thing so I really do appreciate the confidence he had to put me in there.”
John Michael Liles opened the scoring early, giving Reimer an early lead to work with. Liles beat Lightning goalie Dustin Tokarski 69 seconds into the game. It was Liles’ first goal since he returned from a neck injury on February 1st
“It’s a great confidence builder for our team” Liles said. “It was a great play by Phil (Kessel) getting in zone, coming down and a heck of a play by Grabo (Mikhail Grabovski) a little give-and-go and I was happy to bury it for the chance in the slot.”
The Leafs went to work on building a cushion in the second period. Matthew Lombardi would find Joey Crabb on a 2-on-1, allowing the native of Alaska to grab ninth of the season (of which eight of have been on the road.)
Jake Gardiner would eventually chase out Lightning netminder Dustin Tokarski, after the rookie defenceman showed excellent poise by taking the puck from the middle of the ice and scoring on a solo effort that would make any forward green with envy.
“I remember thinking to myself, I’m now supposed to be the defensive defenceman” Liles laughed.
Tokarski allowed all three Leafs goals on just 16 shots. Dwayne Roloson would play in relief.
Reimer was 26 seconds away from grabbing the shutout on this his 24th birthday. Martin St. Louis would break that up with his 23rd of the season.
The Maple Leafs have one more game against the Lightning before the season expired. They have outscored Tampa 17-5 this season.