Air Canada Centre, Toronto
James Reimer (TOR) — 35 saves
Joey Crabb (TOR) — 1G, 2A
Nazem Kadri (TOR) — 1G, 1A
TORONTO — The top-six forwards of the Toronto Maple Leafs had been on a roll until their 4-0 clunker in Florida against the Panthers on Thursday.
So with that in mind, a handful of unlikely offensive sources came the forefront and rookie goalie James Reimer returned to action to help guide Toronto to an impressive 5-2 victory over the struggling Boston Bruins at home on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Maple Leafs, the two points did not help them in their late-season push for the playoffs because the eighth-place Buffalo Sabres hammered the Atlanta Thrashers 8-2 at home to maintain a four-point cushion over 10th-place Toronto.
The Sabres have 11 regular-season games remaining to Toronto’s nine.
Nazem Kadri scored his first NHL goal, while his linemate Joey Crabb also checked in with a goal. Fourth-liner Mike Brown chipped in his first goal in almost two months, and young defencemen Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie book ended their team’s five-goal evening.
"If you want to make a playoff run or go deep into the playoffs I think you need that secondary scoring and we definitely showed that tonight," said Kadri, who banked a long shot off the elbow of Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid to give Toronto a 2-1 lead in the first period in his 21st career game.
"It’s not how I would draw it up, but when you throw pucks at the net good things happen. They all count. There are no pictures on the scoresheet. So, hey, I’ll take it. I’ve had plenty of chances. But it’s finally nice to get that monkey off your back."
This is Kadri’s second stint with the Maple Leafs this season after an ineffective first go-around with the club, in which he garnered six assists in 18 games. When he was returned to the AHL Marlies, the 20-year-old Kadri sought help from head coach Dallas Eakins and the staff to step up his game.
Kadri has demonstrated he is much more aware in all three zones of the rink in his return and has played well alongside Crabb and centre Darryl Boyce. Kadri credited the Marlies coaching staff for his improvement.
This was the first game between the Bruins and Maple Leafs since Tomas Kaberle was dealt to Boston last month. The Maple Leafs improved to 7-4-4 since the Kaberle trade that landed Toronto a first-round pick, a conditional second-round selection and prospect Joe Colborne. The Bruins have dropped to 7-3-3 since the deal, but have gone 1-3-3 in their past seven outings.
Reimer made 35 saves for his 15th win of the season, while at the other end of the rink Vezina Trophy candidate Tim Thomas was hung out to dry by his teammates who got away from their usual tight-checking ways.
Thomas was lifted in the second period after surrendering four goals on 14 shots. But he asked Boston head coach Claude Julien to return for the third period and he stopped the eight shots he faced.
During the first television timeout, the Maple Leafs honoured Kaberle with a video tribute. The crowd of 19,512 at the ACC gave Kaberle a standing ovation and he acknowledged the crowd with three waves from the Bruins bench.
"Obviously, it was emotional," Kaberle said. "A lot of things were going through my head. It wasn’t an easy game to play. "But it was really nice from the fans. They gave me a lot of support … I’m just glad it’s over. But it would have been nice to get the two points."
Kaberle, 33, was traded to the Bruins on Feb. 18 after he played 878 games and 11½ seasons in a Maple Leafs sweater. Tim Horton and Borje Salming are the only defencemen in Maple Leafs history to have played more games. Kaberle’s 520 points and 437 assists are second in club history behind Salming’s 768 points and 620 assists.
With only four home games remaining on their schedule, the Maple Leafs decided to honour the 60th anniversary of the late Bill Barilko’s overtime goal to clinch Toronto’s Stanley Cup championship on Apr. 21, 1951.
Barilko’s sister, Anne Kilsanich, and his 87-year-old teammate, Howie Meeker, were part of the festivities. Barilko was killed in a plane crash in Northern Ontario a few months after he deposited his overtime winner behind Montreal Canadiens goalie Gerry McNeil.
Leafs snap out of first-goal funk
When defenceman Luke Schenn scored on his end-to-end rush midway through the first period, the Maple Leafs snapped a streak of nine consecutive games in which they surrendered the game’s first goal.
Toronto has scored the first goal only 27 times in 73 starts and has been outscored 73-51 in the opening 20 minutes.