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Special teams power Maple Leafs past Avalanche

by Mike Brophy /

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs' special teams were the difference in their 5-1 win against the Colorado Avalanche at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

The Maple Leafs were 4-for-5 on the power play, including two goals by former Colorado forward PA Parenteau, and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill with a shorthanded goal. Goaltender James Reimer made 34 saves for his fourth straight win.

Toronto (6-9-4) has won four of its past five games. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Avalanche (7-10-1), who have three games remaining on a seven-game trip.

"It's always fun to score against your former team, but I thought we played a great game tonight," Parenteau said. "Reims kept us in there early in the first period, but after that I thought we took over. The power play was clicking tonight, to say the least."

Parenteau acknowledged that scoring with the extra man and killing penalties play a huge role in today's NHL. Toronto entered the game ranked 25th on the power play; Colorado began the night 11th on the penalty kill.

"Special teams is a huge thing around the League right now," Parenteau said. "Five-on-five it's pretty tight; it's tough to get anything going. It's a very tough League to score goals 5-on-5, we all know that, so it's nice to have nights like tonight. It gives you a lot of confidence in your power play. It's good for down the road too."

Toronto coach Mike Babcock was pleased to see Parenteau put up goals, but also complemented his work ethic.

"PA is working probably as hard as he has in his career without the puck," Babcock said.

The Avalanche got an early power-play opportunity when Toronto's Byron Froese was sent off for holding 2:32 into the game, only to have the Maple Leafs take the lead. Shortly after Michael Grabner missed on a shorthanded breakaway, Leo Komarov broke in on the left side and fired a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle that caught the far top corner behind goalie Reto Berra at 3:21 to make it 1-0. It was Komarov's sixth goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs made it 2-0 at 18:37 on Parenteau's first power-play goal. He beat Berra with a one-timer from 15 feet with Colorado's Blake Comeau sitting out a high-sticking penalty.

Comeau was in the penalty box for interference when Toronto's Tyler Bozak scored at 10:12 of the second period to make it 3-0. He finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Peter Holland and Brad Boyes for his third goal of the season.

Defenseman Erik Johnson made it 3-1 at 12:04 with his fourth goal of the season. Matt Duchene won an offensive-zone faceoff to Nathan MacKinnon, who tapped the puck back to the blue line. Johnson's wrist shot from the left point fooled Reimer.

Parenteau made it 4-1 with his second of the night and sixth of the season at 11:21 of the third period, beating Berra with Colorado's Francois Beauchemin serving a high-sticking penalty. The Avalanche replaced Berra with Calvin Pickard following the goal.

The Maple Leafs scored their fourth power-play goal of the game at 15:59 when James van Riemsdyk connected on a snap shot from the high slot for his seventh goal of the season.

"We were just not good enough tonight 4-on-5 or 5-on-4," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "I never thought we could be worse than we were in Florida (Oct. 27) when the Panthers scored three power-play goals, but tonight was one of our worst performances. They scored four power-play goals and one shorthanded goal and that was the story of the game."

Roy said he would spend time with assistant coach Dave Farrish going over the penalty-killing against the Maple Leafs, but he isn't about to press the panic button.

"I guess we just had an off-night," Roy said. "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. 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 [are] not playing some good hockey."

Babcock said he is impressed with Reimer's performing and plans to stick with him while he playing well.

"It's real simple and it's the way life works; if [you're] given an opportunity and you do a good job, you usually get to keep the opportunity," Babcock said. "If you don't then someone else gets the opportunity. That's the way life is. [Reimer] has confidence now. If he gives up a goal, it doesn't seem to bother him. He just keeps making saves and playing good. The guys are confident in him and happy for him."

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