Grabovski douses Habs

Maple Leafs Mikhail Grabovski scores the winning goal in OT against the Montreal Canadiens in...

Maple Leafs Mikhail Grabovski scores the winning goal in OT against the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal on October 22, 2011. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

MONTREAL - For the Maple Leafs, this was the ultimate fire drill.

And when a Monster hose wasn’t enough, Mikhail Grabovski’s line passed the buckets in overtime and saved a 5-4 win.

Losing goaltender James Reimer in the midst of a hyper-intense Saturday night at the Bell Centre was a test of their early-season confidence and the Leafs survived a shaky relief performance by Jonas Gustavsson.

Grabovski, a reviled ex-Hab, made a Savardian spin-a-rama out of the corner to beat Carey Price after helping Nikolai Kulemin tie the game late in the third.

Reimer suffered what coach Ron Wilson described as “whiplash-type symptoms” from an elbow to the head by Brian Gionta early in the game.

“This early in the season, we didn’t want to risk it,” Wilson said of keeping Reimer in the room the rest of the night. “It was clearly an elbow to the head. I don’t know if you’d call it a head shot, but when you knock the goalie’s mask off ...”

Wilson left the question of further review to the league, but said Reimer should be fine.

Gustavsson was parachuted in to start the second period with just a couple of minutes notice. He gave up early goals in the first and second period and a go-ahead marker by Josh Gorges, before the misfiring Grabovski line, with the returning Clarke MacArthur, struck twice.

Grabovski joked that he didn’t hear the booing every time he touched the puck, “only when Mike Komisarek did”, speaking of the other former whipping boy here.

“My family came in from Toronto for today and I’m more happy for them that they saw us win.”

The Leafs are 5-1-1 — all of their wins against Canadian teams — and sit atop all six in the standings. They’ve twice tamed Carey Price and the Habs, who fell to 1-5-1.

Wilson has been irked by a lack of secondary scoring beyond Phil Kessel’s line, so the late goals were huge.

“Grabbo, he takes pride everywhere, but particularly in here,” Wilson said. “Whatever happened to him here in the past, with an effort like that on the winning goal, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

This night was a demolition derby of goalies, with Price getting his share of Leafs in his face.

Gustavsson, who had not won since Jan. 6 in a shootout against St. Louis, had been burned six times on 43 shots in Boston two nights earlier. And with the Leafs not playing back-to-back for two weeks, had likely been looking at a long spell on the bench. Reimer had told Gustavsson during the first intermission that he was okay to remain in the game, which made the Monster all that more unready to be thrust in.

A couple of years ago, a racing heartbeat forced Gustavsson to leave after one period in this building, with Joey MacDonald completing a shutout.

Hopped-up fans of both sides were just getting past the surprise announcement of Gustavsson before the second-period puck drop, when Andrei Kostitsyn fired the first shot past the cold Swede. But the Habs handed that right back, in the slot, to NHL scoring leader Kessel of all people, for an easy eighth goal.

Dion Phaneuf’s goal bought Gustavsson some time to stretch and he made 11 saves in what became a hectic second period with two Montreal man-advantages. But that’s just one of the gaping holes on this year’s Habs.

Ex-Leaf Hal Gill, honoured for his 1,000th game, tried to offer some pre-game perspective to fans looking to blow up the team.

“When you aren’t winning games, the coaches aren’t coaching the players aren’t playing and the GM has to do something. That’s the business we chose, and we’ll be scrutinized unless we win games. That said, we have to go out and win battles.”


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