It was a tale of two goalies.
Toronto Maple Leafs
stopper James Reimer has desperately been trying to find his game and, despite a shaky start, settled down and took advantage of a little goal support for a change. Reimer has been relegated to backup duty of late, with Jonathan Bernier hitting his stride, and needed a strong performance to get back in his coach's good books.
Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche
, on the other hand, has been red hot and had not lost a game in regulation since Dec. 10. But on this night he would not make it through the end of the game.
At the end of the night it was Reimer winning 5-2 in regulation
time while Varlamov surrendered three goals in 22:55 before being pulled.
Reimer said the victory was especially fulfilling given the tough circumstances his team faced.
"It was a team effort," Reimer said. "I think tonight was a good showing of some steps we have taken. Coming into tonight we could have given an excuse game, you know, back-to-back games with the high altitude. It's a lot tougher coming in here when your lungs are burning, but we stuck with it."
Toronto built a comfortable 4-0 lead, but as has been the case so often this season, the Maple Leafs did not make things easy on themselves allowing Colorado back into the game.
The Avalanche swarmed the Leafs in the third. Toronto led 4-1 after two periods, but Colorado scored early making it 4-2 early and, while Reimer might not have scored high marks for artistic impression the rest of the way, he seemed to lose his net time after time... and the puck for that matter, he got the win.
In Reimer's defence, he received very little support in defence from his teammates. The Maple Leafs could not match Colorado's speed, particularly in their own zone and that made the goalie's night miserable. Though looking unorthodox at times, he provided his team with the saves it needed.
At the end of the game, Reimer was named the game's No. 1 star after finishing with 35 saves.
He deserved the honour.
One thing about Phil Kessel
; when he's hot, he's hot. The streaky Maple Leafs sniper is definitely on one of his customary scoring streaks. The blazing fast right-winger had four goals and 12 points in six games leading up to the Toronto-Colorado tilt and added to his total with a goal at 3:56 of the first period with a goal that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead. Defenceman Dion Phaneuf made a rink-long bounce pass off the boards that Kessel corralled and quickly snapped past Varlamov.
Good thing for the Maple Leafs, too. The Avalanche entered the game with a 25-1-3 record when scoring the first goal of the game.
Toronto's fourth-line centre Jay McClement iced the game with an empty-netter at 17:47
of the third period. It was his second goal of the season and his fifth empty-net goal in the past two seasons.
A lot has been made of the fact the Canadian junior team has struggled at the world juniors in recent years. Few seem to acknowledge the number of junior-aged players from Canada that miss the tournament because they are in the NHL. Such is the case this year when Nathan MacKinnon
, the first pick in last June's NHL entry draft, who potted two goals against the Maple Leafs Tuesday. Not that one player guarantees a team a gold medal, but do you think MacKinnon might not have put Canada in contention?
Friends in high places
Denver Broncos offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, a Toronto native, was a guest at the game of his good pal Tyler Bozak.
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle has been quite complimentary of Troy Bodie's play this season despite the fact the veteran has been up and down between the NHL and AHL. With each passing game, Bodie looks more and more like a 'Carlyle' type of playoff player -- a big, grinding winger who isn't afraid to get his nose dirty. If the Leafs make the playoffs it would not be surprising to see him holding down the right wing position on the fourth line.
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