TORONTO – After giving up the overtime goal in Game 4, a grim-faced James Reimer suffered the indignity of having a phalanx of reporters watch him undress before facing the heat.
Two nights later, there was another waiting horde. But this time the topic was how the goaltender had helped Toronto keep its playoff campaign alive against the Boston Bruins.
Reimer stopped 43 shots Friday night, including 18 of 19 in an intense third period that saw the home-town Bruins charge hard but fall short in a 2-1 Toronto win that narrowed the Boston lead in the series to 3-2.
Game 6 goes Sunday night in Toronto with Game 7, if necessary, on Monday night back at the TD Garden.
Several of Reimer’s saves were of the spectacular variety, including a stop on Patrice Bergeron in the second period that saw the Leafs goalie somehow manage to get a toe to the puck while the goal gaped open.
“He was unbelievable,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “He made that stretched-out save, just one of the many that he made. He’s been unbelievable for us all year and tonight he was just superb … tonight he was a difference.”
“We are coming out of here with a win because of him,” added defenceman Cody Franson.
Reimer has faced more shots (207) than any other goalie in this year’s playoffs and made more saves (192). It comes at the end of a season in which the 25-year-old from Morweena, Man., has been dogged by talk of Toronto acquiring Roberto Luongo or Miikka Kiprusoff.
There is no “I told you so,” from Reimer. After Friday’s win, he was typically unassuming, referring several times to playing well as a team.
“I just try and work hard and make a save for my teammates,” he said.
As is his way, Toronto coach Randy Carlyle was restrained in his praise.
“The playoffs take different twists and turns,” he said. “As a young goaltender, he’s been presented with a lot of pressure. And he’s remained fairly calm and level-headed. You can see the growth of a hockey player and specifically a goaltender that’s finding his way and learning some of the intricacies of playoff hockey.
“The experience should be real valuable to him as it should be to all of our younger players.”
Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scored to ensure the Leafs live to fight another day.
Bozak profited from Andrew Ference mishandling the puck at the Toronto blue-line during a second-period power play and then used his speed to come in alone at Tuukka Rask, who also had a monster game in the Boston goal.
MacArthur intercepted a pass early in the third, making a nifty move to beat Rask on the backhand.
For MacArthur, it was his second goal in as many games after being a healthy scratch for two games.
“Tonight we won our fair share of battles and we needed some other-than-ordinary performances out of some individuals,” said Carlyle. “Clarke MacArthur comes off the bench, scores in two straight games. That’s great sign for a coach that you’ve got a veteran guy that steps in and provides you with some offence. And our goaltending.”
Reimer gave up some rebounds but the Bruins could not take advantage. Boston also failed to put traffic in front of him until the third period.
Captain Zdeno Chara cut the lead to 2-1 at 11:12 of the third period after the line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton bottled Toronto up in its own end, taking advantage of Reimer not catching the puck on a routine save to stop the play.
Boston coach Claude Julien was scathing in his assessment of his team letting the Leafs off the hook.
“Every once in a while the hockey gods will take care of the people that deserve it,” he said. “Obviously they played 40 strong minutes and they deserved to win tonight. We have to lick our wounds and get ready for the next game.”
Julien pointed to the line of Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin as underperforming, with just a combined three assists in five games.
“That has to come for us to be successful, starting next game,” he said. “It’s called accountability. We have to have more of that from that line, as far as being a difference-maker, or at least something positive.”
Carlyle expects a fired-up Boston team to emerge north of the border.
“I’m sure that we’ve poked the Bruins,” he said. “They’re going to be a very desperate hockey club come Sunday night and we better be equally as desperate.”
The Bruins have had difficulties closing out series in recent years, although it did not stop them winning the Cup two years ago.
In 2011, they were beaten in possible Game 6 clinching games against Montreal and Tampa Bay but went on to win Game 7. In 2010, they needed six games to dispose of Buffalo (after being up 3-1) before blowing a 3-0 lead and losing in seven to Philadelphia.
Boston’s record in non-Game 7 elimination games under Julien is now 3-7.
Toronto, which split its 26 regular-season wins evenly between home and the road, has now won two of three games in Boston during the series.