MONTREAL – Jonas Gustavsson was confident that James Reimer was going back in for the second period as the final minutes of the first intermission waned.
“I asked him how he felt,” explained Gustavsson, “and he said that he thought he could play. I thought he was going to keep playing.”
Turns out the doctor had the final call.
Reimer departed the Leafs eventual 5-4 overtime victory after just twenty minutes on Saturday night, following a scary collision with the right elbow of Canadiens captain Brian Gionta. “He got an elbow to the head and felt like I guess you could call it whiplash-type symptoms,” said Ron Wilson, following the victory. “He could've finished the game, but this early in the season we didn't want to risk it.”
Making his second appearance of the season, Gustavsson appeared shaky in moments – Andrei Kostitsyn scored on the first shot of the second period, Mike Cammalleri very early in the third – and steady in others – he stopped Tomas Plekanec on a partial breakaway – making 15 saves in relief of the Leafs starting netminder. It was his first win since January 6th.
The 26-year-old learned he was needed only three minutes or so before the second period was to begin. “You wake up that's for sure,” said Gustavsson. “Everything goes so fast. You don't have the time to think actually. You just try to warm up, get ready and get the adrenaline going and then sooner or later you're out there.”
Reimer's status for Monday's game in Philadelphia is unknown at this point, although Wilson seemed somewhat optimistic. “He should be okay,” said Wilson. “We'll see how he feels [on Sunday].”
With his mask askew – jarred by the clash of Gionta's elbow – Reimer appeared a tad shaken, kneeling on the ice for a few moments with the play circling towards the Canadiens end. He stayed in the game, however, and made a few brilliant stops, notably late in the period.
It was not his first such incident in the NHL.
Last February in Atlanta, Reimer was bumped by the leg of Thrashers (now Jets) forward Evander Kane crashing the net, forced to leave the game with a minor neck injury. He didn't miss any action after that, however, returning to face the Penguins three days later.
Mikhail Grabovski hadn't scored in quite a while against his old team. The 26-year-old potted the overtime winner against the Habs, a nifty play in front of Carey Price. “Just feel good because I can't score against Montreal in like three years,” said a jubilant Grabovski after the game.
Drafted by the Canadiens in 2004, Grabovski hadn't scored against Montreal since March 21st, 2009, when he notched a goal and three assists in a 5-2 Leafs win. “That's huge for him,” said Wilson. “He takes great pride everywhere, but in particular here. He's always excited to play in Montreal…with an effort like that on the winning goal, it couldn't happen to a better guy.”
Grabovski added a helper on Nikolai Kulemin's game-tying goal in the third period, thus kick-starting what's been a slow start for the Leafs most reliable line of a year ago. The trio of Grabovski, Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur had combined for just five points entering Saturday's game. “The hardest thing is staying positive,” said MacArthur. “You've got to just stick with it. They're great guys to play with and we should have confidence just knowing we're playing together.”
“That line itself made a difference,” added Wilson. “It was a good effort on their part after a not so good fifty minutes.”
MacArthur is still finding his legs after a series of early obstacles that include a two-game suspension, elbow infection and lower-body injury more recently. “Every game's getting better,” he said. “I need a couple more [games] here to be back to 100% I think, but nonetheless when I'm out there I've got to help the team.”
Dion Phaneuf continues a red-hot start and has arguably been the Leafs best player this season. The captain scored a booming power-play goal against the Habs, also adding an assist on Kulemin's second of the year. Phaneuf is tied for the scoring lead among defencemen with two goals and nine points through the first seven games, also averaging nearly 27 minutes a game.