Maple Leafs' special teams step up in win over Avalanche
Power play strikes 4 times, Komarov scores short-handed
The much-maligned Toronto Maple Leafs special-teams units enjoyed a special night against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Leafs got four goals on the power play and one short-handed to beat the Avalanche 5-1 Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre for their fourth victory in five games.
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored twice against one of his former teams, Tyler Bozak had his first power-play goal of the season and Leo Komarov scored Toronto's first short-handed goal in its 19th game. James van Riemsdyk also scored late on the power play.
The last time the Leafs scored four power-play goals in a game was Jan. 7, 2011, a 9-3 win at the Atlanta Thrashers.
"We're all pretty comfortable where we are and we're moving the puck, we're bringing the puck to the net and good things are happening for us," said Parenteau, who was traded from the Avalanche to Montreal in the summer of 2014 for Daniel Briere. "It's a very tough league to score goals five-on-five, we all know that, so it's nice to have nights like tonight. It gives you a lot of confidence in your power play."
James Reimer, anointed the No. 1 goaltender by coach Mike Babcock, stopped 34 of the 35 shots he faced for his fourth consecutive win. After a bad start, the Leafs (6-9-4) now have points in seven of their past nine games.
Reimer credited his teammates for keeping chances mostly to the outside and limiting the Avalanche's quality opportunities.
"The team played another phenomenal game," Reimer said.
The only goal Reimer gave up was to 2006 No. 1 pick Erik Johnson. Colorado (7-10-1) suffered its first loss on this road trip after three consecutive wins.
I guess we just had an off night. Tonight was one of our worst performances.- Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy
Avalanche goaltender Reto Berra, who had stopped 89 of the first 92 shots he faced this in place of the injured Semyon Varlamov, was pulled for Calvin Pickard after allowing four goals on 26 shots. And that was the least of their problems.
"I guess we just had an off night," coach Patrick Roy said. "Tonight was one of our worst performances. They scored four power-play goals and one short-handed goal, and that was the story of the game."
Toronto entered the game ranked 25th in the NHL on the power play with a conversion rate of just 15.1 per cent and 23rd on the penalty kill with a success rate of 78.7 per cent. At home, the Leafs' penalty kill was third-worst in the league.
Those statistics were rendered moot by breakout performances against the Avalanche. The penalty kill went 4-for-4 with Komarov's short-handed goal an added extra, and the power play was 4-for-5.
Coach Mike Babcock liked the puck speed on the power play, something Peter Holland attributed to developing a rhythm and some chemistry.
"We know where each other is, that's the biggest thing," said Holland, who had two primary assists and a secondary assist. "It's not always going to go in the net, but as long as we're creating chances, it's going to go in more times than not."
The special-teams success made it look like a lopsided result, but the Avalanche outshot the Leafs 32-21 at even strength. That was little consolation to Roy.
"Our penalty-killing was really good against Montreal, was really good in Boston and really good in Philadelphia so let's not panic over this game," he said. "Obviously we need to learn from it. I thought we had a good start to the game, but we were just sloppy on our power play giving them two great chances. You cannot win on the road if your power play and penalty kill is not playing some good hockey."