This night was to be Jonathan Bernier’s chance to put one over on his old team. He has taken over the number one spot in Toronto and posted, before tonight, a top-5 save percentage in the League while facing an inhumane number of shots, a huge part of the Leafs‘ second place Atlantic Division standing.
A shutout is what he dreamt about last night, to be sure. Only it wasn’t about one from James Reimer, who took over the crease tonight to begin the 2nd with the Leafs down 2-1. Reimer posted 30 saves on 30 shots over 40 minutes, with three huge outstretched pad saves in the mix, and closed out his first win in the Leaf net since January 21.
This is a result one that, no matter who one might be cheering for in the goaltending battle this season, all decent Leafs fans should be able to crack a smile about. Reimer’s had two chances to start since the Olympics and the Leafs didn’t really show up for either of them; one was the toughest back to back scenario imaginable, and he got shelled for 6 on 40+ shots. It was symbolic of Reimer’s career — there’s been no shortage of fans and pundits writing him off, only for Reims to battle back and come up big for his team when called upon.
It’s a huge result for the team as well, as the Leafs collected four of a possible six points in a trip through the State of California, whose three hockey teams are a combined 124-56-20. It’s only going to take 12 more points of a possible 28 to close this playoff berth out, and the Leafs have certainly earned the right to talk about loftier goals such as securing home ice advantage in the first round.
It, unfortunately, doesn’t come without some health concerns. Sprawling out to grab a loose puck in the second period, Reimer took a skate ankle to the arm and then his face mask, leaving him down on the ice for a minute or so. Bernier asked the trainer if he had to go back in, but Reimer felt confident enough to continue despite experiencing some headache. There’s disastrous scenarios, and then there’s the Leafs losing both of their overworked goalies in the span of an hour with 14 games left in the season.
As @mlse tweeted, everyone be sure to light a candle for Reimer and Bernier tonight.
There was a big contingent of Toronto Maple Leaf fans at this game and an audible atmosphere forming between the two fan bases. This was a great game, to boot. And that’s saying something for a Kings home game. For all their flaws, the Maple Leafs are an adventure so fun each game deserves a souvenir.
The Leafs went with 7 defence and 11 forwards again, with Ashton still a scratch for Colton Orr. Yeah.
The Leafs looked dangerously close to letting this game go the way of the San Jose debacle early in the first. Two minutes in, Gaborik scored off the rush after Phaneuf was caught sleeping while Gaborik crashed the back post uncontested and banked in the rebound. Five minutes into the game the shots were 8-1, and Jonathan Bernier had prevented a sure goal for Anze Kopitar that would’ve made it 2-0 with a massive toe save.
The 2nd line was the first to do something for the Leafs, the second line being Lupul–Kadri–Clarkson in this game. Clarkson caused some disruption on the forecheck with good foot movement and drew a call. Phaneuf and Franson were looking scrappy again on the first PP, unable to gain the zone cleanly and set up properly. Shift change later, Gardiner and Rielly set up cleanly and a good chance for Kadri followed. In another good sequence, after a good zone entry by Gardiner and Rielly, Lupul got three whacks at the rebound which were thwarted by Quick.
Interesting to see JVR start to turn the momentum for Toronto at the 9min mark with a couple of good rushes and shots as he did against Anaheim. The Leafs went on to even the shot count at 8-8 in lightning quick time, showing some good puck movement and aggressive play through the neutral zone. When the Leafs were generating speed through the neutral zone and applying it on forecheck and cycle, the inability for the Kings to contain the Leaf attack became obvious, as the speed advantage shone through for the middle portion of this period, when it looked like the Leafs’ dominant game (despite a loss) against the Kings earlier in the season. The Leafs took 10 of 11 shots after starting the period down 8-1 on the shot clock.
Despite all this and a second powerplay, the Leafs went down a man and conceded a goal on the penalty kill to put them behind 2-0. Franson and Ranger wound up on the same side of the ice along the boards and left a wide open Anze Kopitar on the far side to one time one past Bernier, who had no chance.
A fast break from Kessel in the first was his best moment in a bit of an off-game, and it led to a powerplay and the first Leaf goal after Jake Muzzin hooked him up with little other choice. Finally, Dave Farrish sent Phaneuf and Rielly over the boards to start the PP, with Phaneuf on his right side for the 1st time in a long time. Moments later, with Rielly as the puck carrier, the Leafs drained a quick PP goal; After Rielly gained the zone with great speed and purpose, taking a hit to do so, Phaneuf drifted in from the point, faked a shot and went backhand-and-in on Jonathan Quick. For the record, we have been screaming since the playoffs—in almost every game review—for Phaneuf and Franson to be split up with Gardiner (or now Rielly) on first-pair LD as the primary puck carrier and Phaneuf’s shot opened up on the RD.
The shots were 15-10 for Toronto as they pressed to close out the period in a good 20 overall for Toronto. That’s not to be unexpected, as they matchup well against LA and used their edge in speed to be first on pucks, win their one-on-one battles and, while trying hard taking chances offensively, not turning the puck over in dangerous areas too often.
In a bit of a shocker, Reimer took over the net with Bernier sidelined with a lower body injury. He was spotted stretching out his leg a bit, perhaps related to the big outstretched save he made on Kopitar (update: Randy reports the injury was bugging him a little before the game); officially it’s been listed as a lower body injury. We can definitely report the injury took place in the lower half of his anatomy.
The Leafs were having some difficulty to start the period, before Rielly continued to show flashes of taking over the game. He found Bodie for a prime chance in front only for him to shoot high, but the Leafs were coming on relentlessly on this shift as Gardiner and Rielly actively rotated down low, forming a relentless five-man attack that featured good puck movement on the cycle. The Leafs were able to bring fresh legs into their cycle when Rielly and Gardiner peeled for the bench eventually. The Kings were actually getting boo’d by their fans because of Toronto dominating a shift—a rare sight for this Leafs team.
And it kept coming. On a great shift from the Kadri line down low to cycle with speed and utilize their points, Gunnarsson fired a hard, low shot, slightly tipped from far out by Kopitar, that beat Jonathan Quick. This comprised the fifth straight game where the defence has gotten in on the scoring, a far cry from the situation earlier in the season. Tie game.
The Leafs blew the game wide open, trading chances with LA as the Kings conceded the neutral zone, feeding right into Toronto’s hands. A huge forecheck from the Leafs took place in this sequence in the second period, with all three forwards going in with ferocity and applying the good type of body checks that separate the player from the puck.
Reimer came across his crease to make a point blank save, when Phaneuf got caught up ice and the back door was wide open, the first sign he was going to come up big for the Leafs despite jumping in cold. The Kings came on strong in the second half of this period once the game was tied, while the Leafs could not sustain the good puck movement and energy level shown between in the 20-minute interval between the 10-minute mark of the first and 10-minute mark of the 2nd. The Leafs PK was big on four minutes worth of penalties, while Reimer battled admirably.
The Kings had the “tied after 2” record in their favour entering the final 20. LA was 12-3-5 when tied after 2 while the Leafs were 8-7-3. It became obvious in the period that the 1st line was not going to be the one to win this game for the Leafs, as they have many times before. They were underwater for a full minute to start the third before Bozak took a penalty; no fault of Bozak, though, as it started and ended with a Gunnarsson turnover on a horrible play with options available.
Then came a momentous save, sort of a poor-man’s version of Reimer’s outstretched rejection of Patrice Bergeron in Game 5 of the Boston series. Again on Kopitar. Huge. Seconds later, after a great cross-ice feed from JVR on the 2-on-1, Mason Raymond clapped home a one-timer while shorthanded to take a 3-2 lead. Raymond’s 19th of the season was his biggest, and for all his frustrating tendencies the guy continues to contribute key goals for this team.
Somehow, some way, the Leafs held onto this lead. We here at MLHS like to break news, and so we would like to announce that Anze Kopitar is a good centerman. Elite, elite, elite. And huge. The Leafs had no answer for his line, nor have they really had an answer for any of the best lines they’ve gone up against, besides “goaltending,” since Dave Bolland went down. Certainly part of the temptation in overpaying Bolland is knowing the Leafs don’t really know seem able to deal with a big match up challenge without him.
The “Leafs are sitting back here too much trying to protect a lead,” Ray Ferraro said, sounding surprised.
Carlyle made a bold call to have Lupul-Kadri-Kessel to close out the game, along with Gleason and Ranger, with about a minute to go. Darryl Sutter had made the equally bold call to go with a grinding line that late in the game. Well, Carlyle’s group didn’t fair well and it was Reimer saving the Leafs’ behind in a mad scramble.
Dion Phaneuf made a good strong play with his stick to break up the play late after a faceoff loss in the defensive zone. From there, Kulemin somehow missed an empty net from the top of the circle with no real pressure on him. Thankfully, it’s just a funny thing to look back on now as the final seconds fizzled out and the Leafs won the game.
This was a come-from-behind win from 2-0 down over a contender that was on an eight-game winning streak. Taken in combination with the win over Anaheim, these are important points that should be momentum/confidence builders going down the stretch and into the playoffs. Big victory.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Los Angeles Kings Boxscore
LOS ANGELES STATISTICS
|Jonathan Quick (21-14-2)||L||29||26||0.897||58:43:00|
|Jonathan Bernier (25-16-7)||10||8||0.8||19:38|
|James Reimer (11-8-1)||W||31||31||1||40:00:00|
|James van Riemsdyk||0||1||22:09||0||6||0||0||0||1||0||0||2|