I don't want to say that this was an important win for the Leafs, because the same could be said for all the Leafs remaining games, but it was, nevertheless, critical for my own peace of mind. Yesterday's tough loss was marked by a rash of bad luck and some shoddy goaltending (and a brutal no-goal), and today, things just happened to go the opposite way.
Pittsburgh hit the post on three separate occasions, but James Reimer did just enough to earn the shutout and, hopefully, another start.
While I would wager that Pittsburgh maintained puck possession far more regularly than the shot count would suggest, the Leafs' defenders have to be credited for blocking shots and keeping shooters, particularly Evgeni Malkin, to the outside. OK, so there were a few good chances for the Pens to score, but for the most part, Luke Schenn took care of business in his own end, and the Leafs managed to win a relatively low-event affair.
That the Pens maintained great gap control made it difficult for the Leafs to generate much offense off the rush, but winning a game on the basis of a slightly grittier performance suits me just fine as well. The Leafs' line of Kulemin - Grabovski - MacArthur had the most success of any breaking through the Pens' tight neutral zone hockey. Fitting, that a nice, tic-tac-toe play wound up notching the winner, as Clarke MacArthur made a nice move to cut into the middle, and leave Brent Johnson out of position.
The officiating was poor, with missed offsides and penalties for both teams, but at least it seemed more or less even. Phil Kessel high-sticked Kris Letang in the face and gave him a good gash, but a no-call on a slash that cut Kessel's stick in half helped even that out a bit. Lupul drew an interference minor with only five minutes left in the game that, after seeing the replay, looked somewhat dubious, but we'll take it.
This was exactly the cathartic kind of win I needed to see tonight.
Game In Six