PITTSBURGH – Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle insists he wasn't calling out James van Riemsdyk, and the talented, young winger maintains he didn't much read all that much into what his coach had to say.
Whatever the message, it translated into results.
A day after having a talking to from Carlyle following a sluggish start to the season, van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist Wednesday night as the Leafs ruined the Penguins' home opener, 5-2 at Consol Energy Center.
"It's always nice when you have a conversation with a player about getting into the dirty areas and doing some little things and he comes out ... and has a three-point night," Carlyle said. "I guess you can say you'd be pretty happy with that.
"But it's not done specifically to criticize the player; it's done to motivate the player and help him. He understood. It's not like he's been out-and-out terrible; it was just that he needed to step up his game, and we needed his physical presence and him taking the puck to the net and needed his offense."
Acquired in a June trade from Philadelphia, van Riemsdyk –- drafted second overall by the Flyers in 2007 -- was held pointless over his first two games with Toronto. But Carlyle moved him onto a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin for Wednesday's game, and the trio combined for eight points.
Some seemed to characterize Carlyle's discussion with him as a stern lecture. Van Riemsdyk didn't take it that way.
"I don't try to read into much of the media stuff; I just try to go out and play my game," he said. "I knew I had been doing some good things, and sometimes you need to get that bounce and then you're able to kind of step up that game."
Van Riemsdyk created that bounce for himself.
Offensively, things turned around for him 6:48 into the second period Wednesday, when his initial shot off a pass from Kulemin bounced off of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's pad.
Van Riemsdyk got enough of his own rebound to get the puck to trickle past the goal line.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby picked up his first goal of the season just 29 seconds later, but van Riemsdyk gave the Leafs the lead for good with 5:26 to play in the second when he took advantage of a bad giveaway by Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, intercepting a pass from the two-time scoring champion above the left circle and wristing it high and to the glove side past Fleury.
Van Riemsdyk and Kulemin assisted on Grabovski's first goal of the season 5:18 into the third. That was Toronto's fourth even-strength goal of the game; the Leafs entered the contest as the only NHL team without one yet this season.
Clarke MacArthur had the Leafs' first goal, while Tyler Bozak added a power-play tally with 1:01 left. James Reimer made 28 saves for the win in what was his first start of the season.
"I think we've showed we can play the rugged defensive game, and tonight we showed we have the ability to score as well," MacArthur said. "If we can find a way to use both things every night, you've got a good team and a good chance every night."
The Leafs left Pittsburgh with a quality road win against a previously-undefeated team, but they also left with town with their top-line left winger injured. Joffrey Lupul sustained a broken forearm midway through the second period after being struck by a Dion Phaneuf slap shot.
"He sacrificed himself in front of the net; it's a tough area to play in," Phaneuf said. "Unfortunately, it catches him right in a spot where he doesn't have padding. It's a huge loss, and he's a guy that's a huge part of our team."
Malkin and Crosby each scored their first goals of the season for the Penguins, who had not trailed yet this season after winning games over the weekend at Atlantic Division rivals Philadelphia and the New York Rangers.
"We didn't get to our game consistently enough," Crosby said. "We didn't have enough shifts in their end, we didn't execute and make passes through the neutral zone as good as we could have. Definitely not our best game, that's for sure."
The Penguins' power play entered the game with a 50 percent (4-for-8) conversion rate, and reigning Hart and Art Ross trophy winner Malkin scored from just above the goal line on the right wing side during Pittsburgh's second opportunity with 1:09 left in the first.
Crosby's goal came on a partial breakaway off a pass by Pascal Dupuis, and the Penguins killed off three penalties over an ensuing stretch of five minutes, including 57 seconds of 5-on-3 time.
"Maybe that took a lot out of us," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Even if we didn't realize it at the time."
It was Toronto's much-maligned 5-on-5 play that would make the difference.
That, and the play of Reimer, who was beat out by Ben Scrivens as the No. 1 goalie to begin the season. But Reimer improved to 3-0-1 in his career against the high-octane Penguins.
About five minutes into the second, Reimer made a handful of saves on quality chances by a makeshift line of Pittsburgh snipers Crosby, Malkin and James Neal. Ninety seconds into the third, Reimer preserved Toronto's lead when he made one of his better saves of the night, stopping Chris Kunitz from just outside the crease on the left-wing side.
"I thought I had a little bit of a slow start, but as the game went on, I thought I got a lot more sharp and played better," Reimer said.