There's a goaltending job to be won in Toronto, and rookie James Reimer
is playing like someone who has every intention of winning it.
Reimer stopped 27 shots for his first NHL shutout as the Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 at Air Canada Centre on Thursday night.
It was just the ninth NHL appearance for the 22-year-old, who's making it tough for the Leafs to keep him in the minors. Veteran Jean-Sebastien Giguere served as his backup on Thursday, while Jonas Gustavsson watched from the press box.
"I didn't really think it was going to come this soon, I wasn't really expecting it," Reimer said of the shutout. "It's nice to get. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can't -- the team played phenomenal today."
Reimer got goals from Clarke MacArthur, Darryl Boyce and Kris Versteeg in posting the Leafs' first shutout of the season. He made 12 of his saves in the third period, though his best stop came when he denied Chad LaRose on a second-period breakaway.
"He made a big save on Rosie," Carolina captain Eric Staal said. "That would have cut it to 2-1 and we're feeling better going into the third period. But it was too late for us to get it going."
Reimer also got plenty of help in his own end -- the Leafs blocked 28 shots, several during a 96-second 5-on-3 Carolina power play in the middle period. Leafs center Tim Brant was all over the place during the long two-man advantage, throwing his body in front of shots.
"He was paying the price," Staal said. "I was laying into them as hard as I could. I thought if I could get it by it him, it had a pretty good chance of going in the net."
No one was more appreciative than Reimer.
"I was about to take off my pads and give them to him," he said. "I think he blocked about 30 or 40 shots there."
Leafs coach Ron Wilson was cautious in his assessment of Reimer's play, but made it pretty clear who his two goalies are likely to be for the final 31 games of the regular season.
"I have no hesitation to play him or (Giguere)," Wilson said. "I think it's horses for courses right now."
Carolina saw its record fall to 25-21-6 -- leaving it one point behind eighth-place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings -- despite getting a highlight-reel save by goalie Cam Ward in the third period. Ward dove across his net and miraculously got a glove on Brent's shot. The Leafs forward figured it was payback for the nice short-handed goal he scored against Ward a little over a week ago.
"I'm going to be on the other end of the highlight I think now," Brent said
The Leafs took a 2-0 lead after the second period.
MacArthur's 16th goal of the season -- one off his career high -- came on a long wrist shot that seemed to fool a screened Ward. The Hurricanes' goalie didn't have much chance when Boyce blocked a Joni Pitkanen clearing attempt along the boards and raced to the middle before beating him at 14:52.
Versteeg made it 3-0 at 6:25, just moments after Ward's big save on Brent.
"I thought they played really well -- they blocked shots, competed and did a lot of simple things," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said of the Leafs. "I didn't think we generated nearly as much as we like to offensively. We struggled in that department, and they played very well."
The Hurricanes missed a chance to pass Atlanta for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. They'll have another chance on Saturday, when the struggling Thrashers come to the RBC Center.
"You're going to have some games -- hopefully not too many -- when you play like we did tonight, and you have to find a way to rebound," Maurice said. "Huge game for us Saturday against Atlanta. I'm not sure if we looked past this one -- shame on us if we did."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report