The Toronto Maple Leafs were rescued by two players some still consider afterthoughts following a 4-3 overtime win Thursday night against the Boston Bruins.
Goalie James Reimer has become something of an afterthought for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Nazem Kadri has been heading in that direction, too, with diminished ice time.
Yet with the game - and the season for that matter - on the line, there they were helping secure Toronto's second straight victory to keep the team's slim playoff hopes alive.
Reimer came in to relieve injured starting goalie Jonathan Bernier late in the game and stopped 10 of the 11 shots he faced. Kadri, meanwhile, had been reduced to fourth-line centre duty, but with the teams playing four-on-four in overtime, he was given a shift and responded with his 19th goal of the season as the Maple Leafs edged the Bruins 4-3.
Toronto remains a point back of Columbus for the final wild card playoff spot, but the Blues Jackets have two games in hand.
"I didn't even realize they were on the power play until right before the whistle when I looked up and saw we were down a man," Reimer said. "You're thrown right into the fire and you are getting shots right away so that helps you get into the game. It's tough to come in towards the end of the third, but we found a way as a team to grind out a win."
Bernier was forced to leave the game after being hurt when Toronto defenceman Paul Ranger knocked Boston's Patrice Bergeron into him at 8:22 of the third period. Bernier is going to have an MRI on Friday.
Reimer entered the game with his team leading 3-2, but with the Bruins going on the power play. Add to that the fact Boston parked the CN Tower, better known as Zdeno Chara, right in front of him to serve as a screen.
Fans greeted Reimer with a huge cheer and then chanted, "Let's Go Reimer...Let's Go Reimer." You have to know many of those same fans were thinking back to last season when Reimer was in net as the Maple Leafs blew a 4-1 lead in Game 7 of the first round of playoffs to the Bruins.
Reimer responded by making a big glove save on the first shot he faced and then made a few more stops as the Bruins pressed with the man advantage. He allowed one goal, but was solid the rest of the way and Kadri, who played just 11:40, got the winner at 2:51 in overtime from in tight.
Toronto centre Tyler Bozak said his team was not worried about allowing the Bruins to come back and beat them after holding a lead in the third period as they did in Game 7 of the playoffs last year.
"People don't remember that we were down 3-1 [in] that series," Bozak said. "We battled back to tie it up. Obviously the last game was awful with the way it ended, but that's behind us now."
Masterton nominee strikes first
The Bruins hit the post at 1:20 into the game, but it was Ranger who opened the scoring at six minutes with his fifth of the season. Ranger made a nice pass to left-winger Jerry D'Amigo, who took advantage of the fact the Bruins defence was backing in, which allowed him to draw closer to the net. He took a shot that was stopped, but Ranger swatted at it and it flew high into the goal past Boston goaltender Chad Johnson.
Leafs pay for sloppiness
The Maple Leafs played themselves out of a playoff position by being weak in their own zone, so it was really no surprise when the Bruins tied it 56 seconds later. Mason Raymond had a chance to get the puck out of the defensive zone along the boards, but elected instead to throw it into the middle at defenceman Cody Franson, whose clearing attempt was picked off by the Bruins Brad Marchand. He snapped a shot past Bernier that looked stoppable.
Strike late, strike early
With time running out in the first period and Toronto's leading scorer Phil Kessel in possession of the puck along the goal-line with no shot, he instead spotted Bozak at the far side of the goal and drilled a high pass that bounced in off Bozak's chest, giving the Leafs a 2-1 lead.
"They don't ask how; they ask how many," Bozak said afterwards.
Then 52 seconds into the second period left-winger James van Riemsdyk found himself alone in front of the net and drilled home his 30th of the season to make it 3-1.
Cue the comeback
The Bruins controlled play from the drop of the puck in the third period and, you guessed it, pulled to within a goal when David Krejci was allowed to skate unimpeded into the Toronto zone, circle the net and pass to Milan Lucic in the slot. Lucic took a slap shot that beat Bernier at 5:03. Goals by Lucic and Bergeron forced the game into overtime.
Now that's different
Toronto's fourth-line right-winger Troy Bodie actually led the team in ice time in the first period with 8:04. He had 11 shifts. Bodie entered the game averaging 11.3 shifts and 8:03 per game.
"It kind of surprised me, but it's just the way it went," Bodie said. "Having 11 forwards you've got to switch in there and having only three right-wingers I guess I was the one to go in and I was fine with it."
Loss of Lupul
Left-winger Joffrey Lupul was scratched from the Maple Leafs lineup due to a lower body injury. In two previous games against Boston this season Lupul had a goal and an assist. He was injured for a third meeting. The Maple Leafs recalled left-winger Carter Ashton from the AHL Marlies, but he did not dress.
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.