TORONTO - The teacher had one last lesson for the pupil on Monday night.
After Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer spoke in the morning of the valuable mentoring he received from Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the latter was a couple of saves better for the Colorado Avalanche in a 3-2 overtime victory against the Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.
"To play against him was a cool experience, but that seems pretty useless since we lost," Reimer said. "There are tons of positives (to take from the game), but the negative that we lost just looms heavier. Just frustrated that we lost."
Reimer put the Leafs' first setback of 2011-12 following three victories on his own shoulders, and the first two Colorado goals were softies that he should have stopped.
But there was little Reimer could do on the winner, scored by David Jones at 1:11 of the extra period, as the Avalanche forward was parked by himself in front of the net and easily tapped a rebound into the net.
And there was nothing Reimer could do about Giguere, who was not overly brilliant, but made some large saves, including a catch of a Phil Kessel wrist shot in overtime.
"There are a couple he probably wanted back, but he made a number of saves to make up for it," coach Ron Wilson said of Reimer's 21-save performance. "They got some lucky bounces on two of their goals, and the third goal, it was a screen that got deflected, and we don't have anyone to clear up the rebound. Not his fault."
Toronto, which ends a five-game home stand on Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets, looked to be headed to its first regulation loss until Nikolai Kulemin scored on a Dion Phaneuf rebound with less than five minutes to play in the third period. The goal served as a sigh of relief for the line of Mikhail Grabovski between Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur, as the three had combined for two points previously.
Kessel made his nightly appearance on the scoresheet, netting the first goal of the game and his sixth of the season. Before everyone gets too excited about Kessel's white-hot start, remember that he had a similar beginning a year ago. Kessel had seven goals in the Leafs' first eight games, but scored just 25 in the next 74 games.
What's different now, and it's something that could spearhead Kessel's success further, is the fact the 24-year-old is in the best shape of his career.
Wilson juggled his lines in the third period, using David Steckel between Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, among other changes. That happened because Tyler Bozak was having a hard time winning faceoffs, and Wilson wanted puck possession every time Kessel was on the ice. Steckel won four of his five draws in the third.
Kessel beat Giguere with a wrist shot 19 seconds into the middle period, but the speedy Avalanche tied the game on a goal by Daniel Winnik, whose shot went between Reimer's legs. Wily veteran Milan Hejduk made it 2-1 with his 360th NHL goal when his shot on a power play went between Reimer's left arm and pad.
But what mattered most to the Leafs was the salvation of one point, with the full realization they weren't great for much of the evening.
"It was a big point that we battled back to get," Phaneuf said. "We're not happy with the loss, but we'll take that point and move forward."
The Avalanche, meanwhile, won all five games of a five-game trip. The 34-year-old Giguere made 27 saves.
"I won't lie to you, playing against those guys was special," said Giguere, who signed as a free agent with Colorado in July after 11/2 seasons as a Leaf. "I pride myself on being a good teammate and a good example. Just because (he and Reimer) wanted the same thing doesn't mean he is a bad kid. I respect him. He fought for everything he got, and he has earned it."