Leafs’ Reimer shuts down Montreal

Leafs goalie James Reimer. Courtesy of the NHL. (8473503)

James Reimer and the Toronto Maple Leafs treated the hometown crowd on the NHL’s opening night with a 2-0 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday.

Goals from Matthew Lombardi and Dion Phaneuf gave Reimer the cushion he needed as he shut down the Canadiens’ offence.

Reimer had been the focus of much speculation during the off-season as to whether he could continue his terrific rookie campaign that saw him finish 20-10-5 with a 2.60 goals-against-average.

Toronto’s young goalie started silencing his critics by stopping all 32 shots he faced to record the shutout.

Lombardi only saw action in one pre-season game for Toronto and sat out most of last year with Nashville Predators after suffering a concussion in only his second game with the Predators.

With defenceman Luke Schenn sitting in the penalty box for a boarding call, Lombardi capitalized on a fallen Carey Price to open the scoring at 19:27 of the second period. Mike Brown and Phaneuf were given the assists on the play.

Toronto came out sluggish in the opening frame, but brilliant netminding from the Buds’ goalkeeper kept the contest scoreless.

The Maple Leafs gave up the puck numerous times in the period—three times alone in the first 6:30 of play—and also gave Montreal a power-play opportunity thanks to a John-Michael Liles cross-checking penalty at 15:53.

Reimer stood tall for the blue and white, managing to stop all 14 shots he faced after 20 minutes.

The young Manitoba native continued his strong play throughout the game, giving his struggling team confidence to attack in the offensive end.

Toronto tried to take control after being given a two-man advantage towards the end of the second period, but Price saved the visitors from a two-goal deficit, making important saves on shots from Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul.

Despite letting in an easy goal during the second period, the Habs’ goalie made some great saves including a sensational glove grab on Lupul, who had a yawning cage in front of him after the puck deflected to the front of the net at 18:25 of the third.

Price, a 2011 NHL all-star began the game strong but fizzled as the time ticked down.

Phaneuf managed to figure out Price and put the home team up by two at 4:42 in the final period with a blistering slap shot from the middle that beat the veteran to the glove side.

Montreal emptied its net with less than two minutes remaining in the game but came up short with the extra attacker on the ice, despite a Schenn penalty with 36 seconds remaining in the game.

Missing in action for the Leafs was off-season acquisition Tim Connolly, who is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Up next for Toronto is a tilt with another long-time rival, the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET) at the Air Canada Centre.

Montreal, meanwhile, heads to Winnipeg for a game against the Jets on Sunday afternoon (5 p.m. ET).