TORONTO – James Reimer returned to form on Monday night.
Reimer made a season-high 40 saves, allowing the Leafs to snatch a point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Kings at the Air Canada Centre. The 23-year-old saved his best work for the middle frame, stopping 15 shots in a frenetic series of action (the Leafs were outshot 16-4), setting the stage for Matt Frattin to tie the score at two early in the third.
"I don't think we had the strongest second period," Reimer said, "and so as a goalie when you see your team, I don't know if you want to say... not struggling, but let's say the other team [is] working hard, you want to be there for the guys. You want to make that big save, you want to keep them in it as long as possible."
The Kings were buzzing midway through the period, notably with the top unit of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Simon Gagne, who pinned the Leafs in their own end for upwards of a minute before a stellar right pad stop from Reimer on Gagne.
"The fact that he was making those saves for us, it's huge," John-Michael Liles said. "I think it definitely helps and it definitely gives you a different mindset [entering the third period] rather than being down two goals or three goals, that's for sure."
"He made some unbelievable saves," Frattin added. "He was definitely keeping us in it. Great plays by him, gave us life."
1. Reimer was just 1-3-1 with a 3.39 goals against average and .868 save percentage in five starts prior to Monday. There was a confidence about him heading into the game, however, a personal belief that he was headed in the right direction. "As a goalie you know how you're playing," he explained, "and there's situations that happen during the game and you know how you react to them; you know whether you react in the right way or the wrong way, and it's kind of regardless of the result. I felt like I was reacting the right way, but things just weren't going my way…To get that result, it just gives you more confidence."
Reimer was 4-0-1 with a 2.58 goals against average and .912 save percentage before being sidelined 18 games with concussion-like symptoms. The Leafs need their number one to provide similar stability as the Eastern Conference standings compress even further (they currently sit seventh with 36 points).
One area of needed improvement for Reimer: high glove. He was beaten on all three Los Angeles goals (Dustin Brown shootout winner included) in that spot.
2. The senior member on one of the NHL's youngest teams, Liles has stressed a more consistent adherence to the team's speedy identity. The Leafs were fine in that respect after 20 minutes, but drifted away in the second with pressure from the Kings, only to return to form in the third. "Bottom line is we had to come out and play better in front of [Reimer] and get back to our game," Liles said, "more pucks to the net, more bodies to the net. It was something that we talked about in here and I thought we did a pretty decent job of it."
3. Frattin's fourth goal of the season came off of a terrific feed from Mikhail Grabovski, a simple tap-in for the 23-year-old crashing the net. "Playing with Grabo you've just got to put your head down and drive the net and he'll put it on your tape and that's kind of what happened," he said. Frattin and Grabovski have found chemistry together of late, reunited in the third period alongside Nikolai Kulemin after Clarke MacArthur failed to rediscover past success with the pair. "Matty's been skating really well and driving to the net, so just wanted to reward him," Ron Wilson said. "The regular, old line just didn't seem to get anything going at all." Searching for a spark with his club having lost four of five games and six of eight, Wilson juggled his lines before Monday's game, moving Tim Connolly back up alongside Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, while shifting MacArthur to his former spot with Grabovski and Kulemin. After forty minutes, he'd seen enough, replacing Connolly with Tyler Bozak and MacArthur with Frattin. "I wasn't going to wait any longer," he said.
4. Jake Gardiner has hit a lull in his rookie season. The 21-year-old finished as a minus player for the third consecutive game, benched for all but three shifts of the third and much of the second. "Three nights in a row where he hasn't had much zip or energy," Wilson said. "We've got to try and recharge his batteries somehow." Gardiner is a minus-5 in the last three games, logging less than 17 minutes on Monday night.
5. Bad news in Toronto continues for Colby Armstrong. Only four games after returning from a 23-game absence (ankle sprain) and Armstrong is sidelined again, this time with a concussion. "It took us all by complete shock because we had no idea that he had his bell rung the other night," Wilson said. "He kind of kept that from us." Armstrong suffered the injury against Vancouver on Saturday, colliding with Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, an exchange that also caused him to crack his toe. The 29-year-old experienced the usual assortment of concussion symptoms on Sunday, notifying team officials when they persisted on Monday afternoon. As is standard with such an injury, there is no timetable for a return. Armstrong has missed 56 games because of injury in two seasons with the Leafs.
The Leafs are 2-5-3 in their last ten games at home… Bozak had quite a night on the draw, 16-22 (73 percent) against the Kings, also notching an assist on Liles fourth of the year. The 25-year-old has 18 points in the last 18 games…Connolly logged a season-high 23:14, the most he's played since February 11, 2009, while still a member of the Sabres… Cody Franson has quietly turned things around. Franson has a plus-7 rating over the past seven games, logging a shade under 18 minutes on Monday… The Leafs were 0-5 on the powerplay and 4-5 on the penalty kill… David Steckel missed his second consecutive game with the flu… Lupul had a six-game point streak snapped.