It was only a week ago when Clarke MacArthur was demoted to Toronto’s fourth line. Now he’s scoring big goals again as the Maple Leafs make a push for the playoffs.
MacArthur scored late in the third period and James Reimer stopped 25 shots to give Toronto a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
MacArthur has four goals and six points in three games since being reunited with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Prior to that, he played a season-low 9:58 on Jan. 23 as coach Ron Wilson tried to deliver a message.
”It was a bit of a wakeup call and he’s responded very well,” said Wilson.
The win gave the Maple Leafs a split of a home-and-home set with Pittsburgh one night after the Penguins erased a 4-1 deficit in the third period before pulling out a 5-4 shootout win.
”I thought it was a harder-fought game tonight,” said MacArthur. ”It felt like a playoff game. There wasn’t much given up on either side. You know, it was just nice to see our team (stick) with it. It’s easy to get frustrated.
”We stuck with it and got the win.”
The game was low on style points but the Leafs managed to move past New Jersey into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Reimer delivered a victory in only his second start of 2012. The man who entered the season as Toronto’s No. 1 goalie was pleased with his performance.
”I really wanted to get this win,” said Reimer. ”It’s been a tough little last couple weeks or whatever. Things really haven’t gone my way. I felt like I was playing well and just wasn’t getting the bounces. Tonight I got a lot of bounces.
”It was just nice to have everything fall into place and just be on the winning side when the buzzer went.”
It looked as if overtime would again be necessary Wednesday until MacArthur took a pass from Grabovski and deked around Brent Johnson with 6:05 to go in regulation.
From there, Reimer held Pittsburgh off the scoreboard for just the second time this season and handed the Penguins only their first loss in nine games.
”I just think it was a little bit tighter checking of a game and that nullified some of the speed on both teams,” said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. ”There wasn’t near as much room out there to play the game tonight and as a result, there weren’t as many opportunities and scoring chances.”
The game featured decidedly less energy than what was on display 24 hours earlier in Pittsburgh, when both coaches were left with some defensive concerns.
The players clearly received the message.
Even with NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin on the ice, there were very few quality scoring chances at either end.
Pittsburgh did manage to get a puck over the goal-line early in the second period, but that goal was overturned because Chris Kunitz was ruled to have kicked it into the net.
”That was a playoff game,” said Leafs defenseman Cody Franson. ”That’s tight-checking, hard-hitting, a lot of chip and run. It was fast-paced out there and it stayed tight right until the end.
”That’s playoff hockey in a nutshell.”
MacArthur has endured some struggles this season. An eight-game stretch without a point preceded his recent stint on the fourth line — although Wilson indicated that move had little do to with scoring.
”I wanted to get Clarke . . . winning battles on the boards, but more than anything, moving his feet and becoming part of the forecheck,” said Wilson. ”He had gotten away from (it).”
The winger was leading the charge and made a nice move on Johnson before scoring his 16th goal of the season. Not only did it deliver some relief for him personally, it also boosted the spirits of his teammates after Tuesday’s tough loss.
”Just how we felt after last game, to come back and answer like we did — that’s a lot of character in here,” said MacArthur. ”To get three out of four against a team like that that was rolling. Obviously, you’d like all four but it doesn’t work that way.
”It was just a good answer back tonight.”
Notes: In 19 career games against the Leafs, Malkin has nine goals and 38 points … Mike Komisarek and Jay Rosehill were scratched for the Maple Leafs … Pittsburgh claimed center Cal O’Reilly on waivers Wednesday but he didn’t dress.