James Reimer wanted to keep things simple in his return.
It had been a while since he started a game for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
And his return came against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the potent Pittsburgh Penguins.
”Maybe there was some circumstances surrounding the game, but honestly I didn’t really pay much attention to them or think about them much,” Reimer said. ”It was just the Toronto Maple Leafs playing the Pittsburgh Penguins, and I was trying to get in the way of pucks.”
Reimer got in the way of a lot of pucks and Dave Bolland scored two goals and the Leafs earned a 4-1 victory over the Penguins on Saturday.
Reimer made 37 saves and Nazem Kadri and Phil Kessel also scored for the Leafs.
”You don’t win in this league without goaltending that gives you a chance, and Reims gives us a chance,” coach Randy Carlyle said.
Reimer hadn’t started since Oct. 17 when he left 32 seconds into Toronto’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes after a collision with winger Josh Leivo. The long layoff didn’t bother him.
”I felt normal right from the get-go,” Reimer said. ”I didn’t feel any uneasiness or uncertainty, really. The puck dropped, and I was ready to stop it.”
Reimer gave up a power-play goal to Kris Letang, the Penguins defenseman’s first of the season, at 6:52 of the first but stopped the Penguins for the rest of the game.
One of Reimer’s more memorable saves came on Malkin a few minutes later, and Bolland went right down the ice and tied it up for the Leafs short-handed.
Reimer was tested in the second period when the Penguins outshot the Leafs 16-4. He made a couple of stops on 2-on-1 rushes, denied Crosby of a one-timer goal at the side of the net and flashed his glove against Matt D’Agostini.
”I thought he was outstanding,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. ”There was flurries and pucks around his net he was strong on. … He certainly was the difference in the second period.”
Reimer gave Toronto hope at the second intermission.
”I think that’s been the story of our season, for the most part,” said James van Riemsdyk, who assisted on Kadri’s goal and Kessel’s later in the third.
”There’s been stretches where we get outshot, but our goaltending is making big saves for us. They’ve gave us a chance almost every night. That’s all you can ask for out of your goalies.”
Kadri replaced Tyler Bozak between van Riemsdyk and Kessel, and Carlyle said after the victory that Bozak would miss at least 7-10 days with a lower-body injury.
Kadri beat Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury 1:26 into the third after passes from van Riemsdyk and Kessel but took more pride in stopping Malkin’s line.
”We’re all on the same page offensively. It was great,” Kadri said. ”It’s not just the offensive side of things, we took care of the D-zone. We were able to shut down a few of their key players.”
Bolland, David Clarkson and Mason Raymond also did a good job against Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz. Malkin finished with a minus-3 rating, while Crosby was a minus-2.
”James played great. Both tenders all season have been unbelievable,” Clarkson said.
”It’s always good when you can have that confidence in your goaltending. No matter who goes in net there we have confidence that if we’re getting outshot or outplayed, then we know what we can do.”
Reimer wasn’t overconfident against the Penguins.
”They have arguably the best players in the world, and they bring it every time they come and play,” Reimer said. ”I’m just lucky enough to have teammates step up and play big games. I don’t know if it has much to do with me more than the guys in front of me working their butts off. Again tonight I thought they worked as hard as they could, and they really earned it.”
NOTES: A CT scan showed Leafs winger Joffrey Lupul did not have a fracture in his right foot and he will travel with the team on their Western Canadian road trip, according to Carlyle. The team hopes Lupul, who has missed two games after taking a shot off the foot in practice Thursday, will be able to play Tuesday at the Edmonton Oilers. … Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi left the game with a lower-body injury late in the first period after taking a hit from Clarkson along the boards. Bylsma did not have an update, saying only that Scuderi would be evaluated Sunday.