January 11, 2011
Leafs on a roll, againClub earns third straight win
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
LOS ANGELES - The calendar says January, but the Maple Leafs are playing like it's October again.
Toronto triumphed a third straight game on Monday at the Staples Center, squeezing out a 3-2 win over the Kings, their longest streak since opening the season 4-0 and creating a buzz among their long-suffering fans. The game ended with James Reimer capping a 17-save third period by staving off a 6-on-4 attack, likely earning yet another start Tuesday in San Jose before his inevitable return to the AHL Marlies.
"You always want to make the NHL, the best league, but I know the reality of my situation," Reimer said. "When (Jean-Sebastien Giguere) comes back, I'll most likely go down, get better and hopefully get another chance."
To get his fourth win in five decisions, the rookie Reimer and the Leafs killed a Dion Phaneuf penalty with 1:42 to play, survived two crease jams with the extra King on the ice and one last-minute video review.
"(Reimer) is cool, he's calm, he settles us down when the other team is all over us," coach Ron Wilson said. "(Four of five wins) is a little bit the ebb and flow (of a season), but we're getting great goaltending and we're healthy, with the exception of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Mike Brown (both returning Thursday). But other guys are filling in well and we have balanced scoring."
Wilson goes for NHL win No. 600 on Tuesday in San Jose, which fired him three years ago.
"The hockey gods are being a little ironic," Wilson said. "I just told (general manager) Brian Burke that if this is the way it was going to be, we should have played San Jose a month earlier."
Marlie call-up Darryl Boyce opened the scoring, Phil Kessel made it 2-1 just 34 seconds later and the Leafs top line of Nikolai Kulemin, Clark MacArthur and Mikhail Grabovski teamed up for Kulemin's 16th of the year five minutes into the third on a turnover and transition.
But because the Leafs followed up that 4-0 start by playing so poorly up to New Year's Day, those early banked points were drained quickly. With most of the Eastern Conference idle, the Leafs moved into a three-way tie for 11th with Monday's win. But until they pass the likes of Ottawa and Florida and get within 10 points of eighth, there's no sense getting too excited.
Just like Friday’s game in Atlanta, the Leafs spotted the opposition a goal and then came to life, though not to the extent of taking a 9-1 lead.
Colby Armstrong, showing no vision problems with a swollen eye and an an unfamilair half-visor, laid a perfect drop pass at the Kings' line to Boyce. He raced in and snapped a glove side shot past Jonathan Quick. Boyce and Joey Crabb later received stamps of approval from Wilson to stay in the lineup after Brown comes back Thursday.
Just 34 seconds after Boyce, Crabb fought off a check as he buzzed Quick and then fed it back through the legs of two Kings to Kessel from a tight angle. Then it was Reimer's turn to suffer some misfortune in front as the Leafs over-loaded one side lost track of big Michal Handzus, who tipped a Martinez shot by skate and stick, through the five hole and just over the line.
The Kings took the early lead when Scarborough native Wayne Simmonds brushed off Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf and ended an eight-game point drought, one of the reasons the Kings had dropped five straight before rebounding to beat Columbus on the weekend.
Mike Komisarek didn't know whether to go to the penalty box or break into a home run trot in the first period when he swung at a puck in the corner and it went straight up and over the white netting. The delay of game call didn't cost Toronto, but it ensured they were on their heels much of the period, without a shot on goal until nearly halfway through.
No one demonstrated that more than Phaneuf, who took the wrong angle on Simmonds coming out of the corner and watched him blow right by and stuff it past Reimer.
The Kings are also in a traffic jam in their conference with four points separating eight teams and L.A. holding on to eighth by virtue of regulation wins.
After going so long without wins on consecutive nights, eight sweeps in 77 tries, the Leafs are in position to do it twice in less than a week.
It was Canadian Pride Night at the Staples Center. Canadian Air Force Sgt. Cindy Scott sang both anthems and Congressional Medal of Honour winner Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta dropped the puck between captains Phaneuf and Dustin Brown.