Step by Step: Leafs gain ground with win against Islanders

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    Hobbies: Winning hockey games

    Another night, another game where James Reimer puts on a show for Leafs fans. On Tuesday night the Toronto Maple Leafs moved to 7-2-2 in the month of February with an enormous win against the visiting New York Islanders.

    While Isles’ goaltender Al Montoya had a solid outing of his own, the focus had to be shifted to Reimer as he turned away 28 of 29 shots and nailed down two very important points for the home side.

    Early in the game, Toronto looked solid, generating scoring chances but failing to capitalize outside of a Clarke MacArthur goal at 10:13 of the first frame. From there the game essentially went back and forth while both goaltenders held steady.

    A Matt Moulson powerplay goal tied things up at 1-1 in the second period, and from then on, this looked like a game the Leafs would let slip through the cracks.

    But luckily Optimus Reim refuses to let pucks find twine, and in steps Phil Kessel with an amazing individual, one-on-four effort with only 4:41 remaining in the game. It’s a 2-1 Toronto win.

    Not enough can really be said about the play of Reimer in this one. Had it not been for his stellar play late that set the stage for some Kessel heroics, we would be discussing the draft lottery more than a playoff push. Funny how one game can mean so much, but this one truly did. It was a key win no matter how you slice it.

    What’s also incredible about all of this is that the team has now run into two consecutive major goaltending performances from Craig Anderson and Montoya, and Reimer been equal to the task. What could easily have been zip for the Leafs over the last two games has turned out to be three points largely thanks to him.

    A few quick stats:

    Dion Phaneuf led all Leafs in ice time with 25:54

    Phil Kessel clocked 20:54 on the ice, good for the most amongst forwards. Kessel was on the ice in the closing stages of this one-goal game as Wilson rewarded him for a good effort at both ends of the ice tonight – his goal best exemplifying that as he covered for a defenceman caught behind the play before weaving his way to the winner up ice.

    Kessel’s goal gives him 23, one behind Mikhail Grabovski for the team lead.

    The Leafs have collected five of six points despite scoring only four goals in their last three games. Thanks Optimus.

    The Leafs now sit one game off of .500 at 26-27-7.

    The win puts the Leafs at six points out of the eighth playoff spot held by Carolina. The Rangers and Canes battled to a shootout where New York took two of the three points given out (yeah, I know.. terrible). Right now, Toronto holds a game in hand with 22 remaining on the season.

    Notes:

    I thought Carl Gunnarsson looked good in this game, playing a heavy amount of minutes (24:03) and finishing with a plus rating…

    Mike Komisarek took a costly penalty but that can’t fully detract from one of his better performances of the season. He looked more confident with and without the puck…

    Up next:

    The Leafs visit the Bell Centre for a game with the Canadiens on Thursday. The game will be a national broadcast on TSN-Habs* (7pm EST)

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    *glove tap to Wendel_Rules and GreekLeafer for the correction.