Leafs Stars Come Through Against Habs
The theme of this early season for the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-1-1) seems to be resourcefulness. It hasn't seemed to matter how the points are achieved, but more finding ways to get the job done through any obstacles thrown their way. Tonight's 5-4 overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens (1-4-2) may have been their most resilient effort of the season. Toronto faced adversity from the opening stages of Saturday's encounter with Brian Gionta taking a run at Leafs netminder James Reimer before the game was even a minute old. Gionta's head shot knocked Reimer's mask askew and prompted Hockey Night In Canada's Glenn Healy to call the goalie a flopper and showman. Gionta received two minutes for goalie interference while Reimer was pulled from the game following the period. On the ensuing Leafs power play Travis Moen broke in on the still wobbly Reimer and beat him to the short side with a backhand. The Leafs in fact allowed a goal less than two minutes into every period. Despite playing with an injured goalie the Leafs still managed to escape the first period tied at ones thanks to a Dave Steckel power play marker as well as some big saves from the injured Reimer. Note, the Leafs said that Reimer (whiplash) could have continued Saturday, but was removed for precautionary reasons. He will be revaluated Sunday.
Playing in front of their backup goalie for the remainder of the game the Leafs stars managed to put this team on their back and carry them to victory. Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel and MIkhail Grabovksi all finished the game with a goal and an assist. Toronto carried the play for most of the night, yet were still down by one with less than ten minutes. On the road, and in a building that has caused the Leafs problems in recent years the boys in blue and white didn't seem to be fazed and their confidence paid off when Nikolai Kulemin equalized off of a goal mouth scramble. Kulemin's goal was the third time the Leafs have come from behind in the third period to earn valuable points early in the season. Canadiens fans were up in arms claiming that Kulemin's goal should have never happened since the puck apparently hit the mesh over the glass on the previous rush. Twice this season Toronto has been scored upon on rushes that were clearly offside and missed by the linesman, during a long season these calls end up evening out tonight the Leafs may have had one go their way. The Leafs also hit the iron three times behind Carey Price, so it may have been poetic justice that they were lucky in the tying goal. Jonas Gustavsson was beaten three times and looked shaky in the net, but give him credit he managed to make some saves and get the W for the Leafs. The Canadiens got goals from Andrei Kostitsyn, Mike Cammalerri and two from Travis Moen.
There were some good signs for the Leafs on the night. The line of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur managed to combine for the tying goal and ex-Hab Grabovski scored a wonderful spinning back hand goal in overtime. Those three players are key to the Leafs, and tonight was their best game of the season. Mike Komisarek and Luke Schenn had solid defensive games on the night. Komisarek was a force playing 18:09 in maybe his best game in a Leafs sweater. John Michael Liles had two assists on the night, and showed the Leafs how great an offensive weapon he is by jumping into the play in overtime and keeping the play alive before he set up Grabovski. Tonight's game was a character building victory, and when the chips were down the Leafs were led by their Captain and two best offensive players.
Men of the Match
Leafs: John Michael Liles - the new Leafs has had some problems this season adjusting, but he perfectly set up Phaneuf for a blast of a one-time while assisting on Grabovski's winner. Liles played 24:08 tonight in his best performance for the buds. His ability to run the power play and inject offense five on five are important to the Leafs this season.
Canadiens: Travis Moen - He scored two goals on the night, and was effective driving to the net. The former Duck has been arguably the best Habs forward this season.
Healyism of the Night
After accusing Reimer of acting on the Gionta hit, Healy then said "We can only speculate as to what happend to Reimer".
The Leafs head to Philadelphia to face the Flyers Monday night.