TORONTO - Goaltending had been the Toronto Maple Leafs' biggest downfall this season. Look no further than Saturday night.
"I thought we started well against Pittsburgh the other night and boom, we give up a goal and then suddenly we get deflated way easier than we should," coach Mike Babcock said.
That was Jonathan Bernier's blunder. Monday night against the Dallas Stars, James Reimer gave up a goal 58 seconds after the Leafs took the lead but finished with 43 saves as the biggest reason for a 4-1 victory.
By stealing a game, Reimer earned himself the net for at least one more night, Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets, and perhaps beyond.
"Absolutely he did, for sure," Babcock said. "If you're him, you want to play every night, so to me you play good and you get to start the next game and you make sure you play good again and you get the start after that and you just keep going that way. That's what I would do if I were him."
Reimer has his chance, one given to him early Monday when Bernier was deemed a little too banged up to start his third consecutive game. Each goaltender had a sub-.900 save percentage going in, so it wasn't like either had distinguished himself.
But Reimer, in his own unconventional way, kept the puck out after allowing a soft goal to NHL leading scorer Jamie Benn. Reimer denied Patrick Sharp from in close and drove Valeri Nichushkin wide on a penalty shot as part of his standout performance.
"He stood on his head," centre Nazem Kadri said. "He made some spectacular saves that really kept the momentum in our favour."
Babcock said afterward that goaltenders are responsible for giving a team confidence. The opposite had been true for the first 10 games of this season.
Reimer's showing against Dallas was a bright spot and didn't come a moment too soon given the attention the goaltending struggles had been getting.
"I'm happy for him," said winger Joffrey Lupul, who's one short of 200 goals for his career. "These (goaltenders) have been at the centre of a lot of criticism, and I feel really good for him to come out and have a big effort like that."
Reimer will have another chance against Winnipeg and then perhaps again Friday against the Detroit Red Wings. But he's keeping his expectations at a manageable level for now.
"If I get the nod, I'll go in there and do what I always try to do: work hard and give the boys a chance," Reimer said.
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