The Toronto Maple Leafs have played a lot worse and still won games this season than they did in Winnipeg Saturday, writes Mike Brophy. On this occasion the Leafs fell behind 4-1 but battled hard to force overtime in what turned out to be a 4-5 loss to the Jets.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have played a lot worse and still won games this season than they did in Winnipeg Saturday night.
On this occasion the Maple Leafs started poorly, falling behind 4-1, but battled hard to get back into it, ultimately forcing overtime in what turned out to be a 4-5 loss to the Jets.
Toronto will be happy to settle for a point and a 2-1-1 road trip. The Maple Leafs now play three straight home games hosting Tampa Bay Tuesday, Florida Thursday and Ottawa next Saturday.
It was, for the most part, a wildly entertaining game; most certainly a step up for the Maple Leafs from the 7-1 defeat they endured in Dallas. That was the game that brought an abrupt halt to their six-game winning streak and sent many Maple Leafs fans into instant panic mode.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle obviously wasn't thrilled with the final result, but put things into perspective following the game.
"We played poorly in Dallas and that kind of took the wind out of our sails, but then we came back and were looking for some form of response and the way the game started out for us, I thought it was a heck of a response for us to get a point," Carlyle said.
Then he offered an alternate perspective.
"We can't say we gave up seven goals the other night and five goals tonight and expect to win many hockey games," Carlyle said.
Carlyle elected to start Manitoba native James Reimer, who is from Morweena, Man., and the fans greeted him with the chant, "Reimer...Reimer...Reimer," at the drop of the first puck. Reimer, who was the first star in a victory in Colorado Tuesday, allowed a goal on the first shot he faced - a shot by Mark Scheifele that was stoppable. Reimer got a piece of Scheifele's shot from the slot, but it seemed to go through him. Not the start he or his team wanted.
After Reimer allowed two goals in 37 seconds -- one on a Winnipeg power play and the second on a screened shot from the point -- he was pulled and replaced by Jonathan Bernier.
Carlyle said the plan all along was to start Reimer in his "hometown." The coach said the first two goals he allowed were scored in the middle of the net -- in other words, they were stoppable -- but credited Reimer with a strong comeback in the second period. Carlyle said he pulled Reimer to give his team a change.
Toronto defenceman Tim Gleason scored at 16:44 to pull his team to within a goal of Winnipeg; his first goal since Dec. 18, 2011. His shot from the point hit Winnipeg's Jacob Trouba and went between the legs of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.
Just when it looked like the Maple Leafs would lose in regulation time and thereby not earn a point, they struck late in the third to take the game to the extra period. It started in the defensive zone when Cody Franson dropped to the ice and stretched to the max to poke the puck away from Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele. It concluded with Phil Kessel netting his 27th of the season after a nifty pass from James van Riemsdyk.
Phaneuf = boo
Jets fans traditionally pick one player -- generally an impact player -- to boo every time he touches the puck. On this occasion, the target was Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf. The targeted players generally consider it an honour.
Phaneuf, by the way, scored the third goal of the game -- a slap shot from the blue line on a Toronto power play -- to pull the Maple Leafs back into the game.
Troy Bodie played his best game as a Maple Leaf; notching his second goal of the season on a quick, high snap shot, and providing his team with plenty of energy. Bodie has been up and down between the Maple Leafs and the AHL's Toronto Marlies this season, but if he plays like he did in Winnipeg consistently, his days in the minors would be over.
The six-foot-five, 226-pound Bodie had two shots and five hits in 9:41 icetime.
Defenceman Paul Ranger was a healthy scratch for the 10th straight game. He has been supplanted by Gleason who was acquired from Carolina.
Don Cheery was all over Toronto right-winger Nikolai Kulemin during Coach's Corner for giving the puck away on a play that resulted in Winnipeg's first goal. He insinuated Kulemin is overpaid for a guy who doesn't score often or play physically. Two minutes into the second period Kulemin had a breakaway and an opportunity to get his team back into the game, but muffed.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.