TORONTO – Even an unexpected bout of indigestion couldn’t slow James Reimer down.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender battled some nausea during Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the New York Islanders—he told untested backup Ben Scrivens to be ready during the first intermission—but managed to hold himself together for another victory.
“Honestly, I was feeling pretty sick during the first period and start of the second too,” Riemer said after making 28 saves. “I wasn’t feeling very good. It was a mental battle out there, just trying to be conservative and not do too much so I wouldn’t ralph all over the ice.
“It was a tough little bit to play.”
Reimer was feeling so bad at one point that he was concerned he might vomit on the ice. The team’s doctor gave him some Gaviscon during the first intermission and it made a big difference.
“I think (Michael) Grabner was coming down when they had a power play and I was kind of drive-heaving,” said Reimer. “I was like ‘Please don’t shoot.’
“It was tough, but I went and saw doc between the periods, got some magic medicine and felt better towards the end of the second.”
The Maple Leafs fortunes have done nothing but improve since the 22-year-old started getting playing time in late December.
Toronto has gone 2-0-1 in its last three games despite scoring just four goals in total—a testament to Reimer’s solid play. On Tuesday, he brought the crowd to its feet with a glove save on Jack Hillen to keep the score tied in the third period before Phil Kessel scored the eventual winner at 15:19.
“He made some big saves,” Islanders forward Matt Moulson said of Reimer. “He was in the right place on the one Jack Hillen had, there was a lot of traffic. I don’t even know if he saw it, but it went in his glove.
“He just seemed to be in the right place.”
Clarke MacArthur had the other goal for Toronto (26-27-7), which improved to 7-2-2 since the all-star break.
Moulson replied for the Islanders (23-31-7).
Both teams have turned up the intensity in February while trying to put on an unlikely chase for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Leafs are now six points back of Carolina with a game in hand.
“It’s a process we’re going through,” said Toronto coach Ron Wilson. “Every game is the most important game to play.”
Reimer and New York’s Al Montoya were the best players on the ice Tuesday. Defensive gaffes resulted in prime scoring opportunities at both ends of the ice, but they kept the game tight.
Montoya, a former sixth overall pick making just his 10th career NHL appearance at age 26, stood tall early. He denied Joffrey Lupul’s bid for his first goal as a Maple Leaf in the opening minutes before turning aside an open look from Nikolai Kulemin.
He was finally beaten at 10:13 of the first period by MacArthur’s well-placed wrist shot off the rush. The Leafs winger now has a career-high 18 goals, which will no doubt continue to fuel discussion in Toronto about whether the team will be able sign him to a new contract.
“Obviously, I’m hearing it every day somewhere,” said MacArthur, a pending restricted free agent. “Maybe it’s in the back of my mind a little bit. But like I said this morning, we’re trying to make the playoffs here and tonight was a big push towards that.
“The other stuff, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”
Reimer was coming off a rare shutout loss—Ottawa beat the Leafs 1-0 in a shootout on Saturday—and surrendered his only goal during the Islanders fourth power play of the evening.
Moulson collected a rebound at 8:09 of the second period and slid the puck past Reimer for his sixth goal in three games and 27th of the season. But the Leafs goalie stood tall from there, making nine saves in the final 20 minutes.
Reimer’s stats aren’t officially counted in the league leaders because he’s yet to play a third of the games—he’s made 16 appearances in Toronto’s 60 games—but they are currently among the best. His .934 save percentage and 2.12 goals-against average trail only Boston’s Tim Thomas.
Most importantly for the Leafs, his record is now 9-4-2.
“I think the key to the game for us was definitely James in goal,” said Wilson. “He played great and made himself big.”
Notes:Kessel’s goal was his 23rd of the year. … Reimer and Montoya went head-to-head in the AHL on Nov. 3, when the Toronto Marlies visited San Antonio. … The Leafs welcomed back forwards Colby Armstrong (blurry vision) and Mike Brown (shoulder) from injury. … Joey Crabb was a healthy scratch. … Toronto centre Tyler Bozak hasn’t recorded a point in 14 games … Announced attendance was 19,459.