James Reimer returned to the Maple Leafs crease on Thursday night, all set to lead his teammates to victory.
But like everyone else on the ice wearing a white Leafs sweater against the New York Islanders, Reimer had just a bit role in what quickly became the Nazem Kadri Show.
In a brief scrum with reporters at 5 p.m., Kadri, who can be as blunt as he is confident, told those gathered that the match would be “a big statement game,” given the team’s slipshod performance a night earlier in Toronto against the Montreal Canadiens.
We didn’t know at the time that Kadri’s slick talent would be making the biggest statement in the form of a hat trick, the first one for a Leaf at Nassau Coliseum since Paul Henderson did it exactly 39 years earlier, on Feb. 28, 1974. And it was the first Leafs hat trick versus the Islanders anywhere since Oct. 14, 1978, when Darryl Sittler had one at Maple Leaf Gardens.