TORONTO - Interim coach Peter Horachek scratched David Clarkson
, started James Reimer
and pushed all the right buttons as the Toronto Maple Leafs snapped their worst skid of the season.
Richard Panik scored in Clarkson's spot on the power play and Reimer shined as the Leafs blew out the Edmonton Oilers 5-1 Saturday night at Air Canada Centre to end an 11-game winless streak. It was Toronto's first victory since Jan. 9 and just the second since Horachek took over for Randy Carlyle.
With his team reeling and playing the second half of back-to-back games, Horachek had decisions to make. After pledging to send a message to players, he did just that by scratching a healthy but unproductive Clarkson.
That was Horachek's call, but an illness to expected starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier was out of his control. Antoine Bibeau got the call-up from the minors, but Reimer started on back-to-back nights for just the second time this season and rewarded his coach for that confidence.
Luke Gadzic's goal with 2.3 seconds left ended Reimer's shutout bid. Reimer stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced for his first win since Dec. 14.
Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth, whom coach Todd Nelson said earned this start, wasn't so fortunate in giving up five goals on 28 shots. Fasth was leaky on the goals Panik, Phil Kessel and Mike Santorelli scored and almost helpless on the ones Morgan Rielly and Peter Holland put past him.
After lamenting the bounces not going their way during a 0-10-1 run, the Leafs (23-27-4) will take these breaks. And they're more than happy to have something to celebrate like Rielly's unassisted rush goal that included an absurd toe drag right before his shot went top shelf.
That display of pure skill is one reason why the Leafs' recent scoring woes were so baffling. With this much talent, it was becoming more and more inexplicable why the goals were hard to come by.
Edmonton (14-30-9) lost back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 13 and 15. The Oilers were playing without wingers Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot, and it's unclear if either will be back for their game Monday at the New Jersey Devils.
The Leafs thought they might be without Cody Franson, but the defenceman who could be trade bait at the deadline took part in warm-ups and played after testing his left leg.
Toronto did just fine without Clarkson, who was made a healthy scratch for the first time since signing a US$36.75-million, seven-year deal in the summer of 2013. Clarkson had just 10 goals and five assists in 53 games this season.
Notes — Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf missed his sixth straight game with a hand injury. ... It was Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night at Air Canada Centre. ... Martin Marincin entered the Oilers' lineup after being recalled from the AHL earlier in the week.