WINNIPEG – Goalie James Reimer hadn’t played for more than two months, but he showed little rust in backstopping the Toronto Marlies to a 2-1 win over the Manitoba Moose on Saturday.
Marlie forward Kyle Calder scored the game-winner midway through the third period of the American Hockey League contest, propelling Toronto to its first regulation win in six games. Reimer hadn’t played since Nov. 27 because of an ankle injury.
“Surprisingly, I didn’t even feel that bad off the start,” said Reimer.
“I was expecting to be a little rusty, and maybe I was and fumbled a couple pucks, but overall I felt well.”
The victory bumped up Toronto’s record to 20-25-10, tying it for last place in the North Division with Grand Rapids.
Manitoba is 26-23-6, tied for third place with Abbotsford.
Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins changed his line combinations for the game, putting together Calder, Justin Hodgman and Tim Brent. The trio factored into both goals.
He also welcomed the return of forwards Viktor Stalberg and Christian Hanson from the parent NHL Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s a little harder to check two lines than one,” Eakins said.
Hodgman scored the game’s first goal when he took advantage of Moose goalie Cory Schneider getting tangled up with his own defenceman.
Hodgman picked up a rebound off a Calder shot and only had to flip the puck into the empty side of the net to make it 1-0 at 7:45 of the second period.
The Marlies outshot the Moose 20-8 in the second and 40-34 on the night.
Calder scored his fourth goal of the season when he got behind Schneider and tipped in Brent’s backhand shot at 11:13 of the third.
“It’s unfortunate that they came out and worked really hard compared to (Friday’s Manitoba win),” Schneider said.
Michael Grabner had tied the game at 4:17 of the third on a breakaway when his shot went between Reimer’s pads and trickled into the net.
It was the fourth of eight games between the rivals this season and Toronto’s first win.
Manitoba travels to Rochester, N.Y., and Toronto for a pair of games against each club next week. Toronto also hosts Abbotsford and Texas during the same span.
“We lost two valuable points tonight so we’ve definitely got to make up for it on the road,” Schneider said.
“Every point’s valuable because the teams behind us are catching up and we have an opportunity to catch Rochester ahead of us (by six points) so it’s a big four games coming up.”