TORONTO - Randy Carlyle put in a long day at the office to try to get his Maple Leafs back on track.
One victory won't solve all the woes going on in Toronto, but in beating the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout Thursday night at Air Canada Centre the Leafs followed their coach's direction to provide some relief during tough times.
Troy Bodie scored in regulation and James Reimer made 34 saves for the win, just the Leafs' second in their past seven games. Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith, a strong candidate to make Canada's Olympic team, had 28 saves in a losing effort.
It wasn't a perfect outing for the Leafs, but it was a far better performance than they've put on the ice during most of the past few weeks. They made fewer of what Carlyle called "individual" mistakes that had proven costly, and Bodie's assertiveness in front of the net provided the necessary offence.
Accustomed to being outshot, the Leafs didn't get blown away by Dave Tippett's Coyotes (18-10-6), who prefer to play a tight game. But that's not the only way this was a different showing by Toronto.
Unlike in their previous loss to the Florida Panthers, the Leafs didn't spend so much time hemmed in their own zone, and when they did, Reimer was there to make some timely stops.
After a day off, Leafs players got to the rink and met with the coaching staff and Carlyle, who spent eight hours at the rink Wednesday trying to find some solutions.
"We formulated some form of a plan that we presented to our players this morning," Carlyle said Thursday morning. "We think there are some things that we can hang our hat on that if we continue to get this group to commit to playing a more aggressive forecheck, a more aggressive defensive zone that the tide will turn in our favour."
Almost one by one, the Leafs got the job done as laid out by their coach.
Most importantly an aggressive forecheck contributed to the Leafs' first goal as Bodie and Peter Holland got into the offensive zone and made something happen. Defenceman Cody Franson's shot bounced off Smith's pads, and Bodie was there in front to collect it and slide it in five-hole along the ice 15:52 into the first period.
It was Bodie's first goal in 13 games this season, his first with the Leafs, and his seventh in 120 career NHL games.
For much of the rest of the night, the Leafs improved their defensive aggressiveness and avoided taking too many ill-advised penalties, and it looked like Bodie's goal would stand up.
Of course the Coyotes made sure this wouldn't be easy, and Martin Hanzal broke up Reimer's shutout 15:08 into the third. With the Leafs' top defensive pairing of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson on the ice, Hanzal got the puck from Rostislav Klesla behind the net and scored on a loose wrap-around.
The Leafs hung on to force overtime and then throughout the four-on-four session before managing to send the crowd of 19,254 home happy. It was their 12th victory in 20 home games this season.
NOTES — Gilbert Brule was in the lineup for the Coyotes, his first NHL appearance since May 15, 2012. The No. 6 pick in 2005 of the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make the team out of training camp but was a point-a-game player for the AHL's Portland Pirates. The 26-year-old Edmonton native was signed and recalled by the Coyotes earlier this month. ... Defenceman Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger and tough guy Frazer McLaren were healthy scratches for the Leafs. ... Phoenix recalled Klesla on Thursday morning to replace defenceman Zbynek Michalek, who returned to Arizona to undergo further evaluation of a lower-body injury.
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