TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 1: James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to stop a shot in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 1, 2012 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
MacArthur scored the lone goal of the game and Reimer posted his first shutout since opening night as the Leafs picked up two much-needed points to help their standing in the East.
James Reimer turned aside all 25 shots he faced and Clarke MacArthur scored the game's lone goal with 6:05 remaining in regulation, as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the back end of a home-and-home series, 1-0, at Air Canada Centre.
The Penguins had pulled off a near miracle on Tuesday night when they came back from a 4-1 third period deficit, with Evgeni Malkin tying the game with just 6.6 seconds left in regulation to send the contest to extra time. After overtime did not settled the outcome, Malkin promptly won the game in the shootout.
With the win, Toronto took three points in the two-day series and jumped a point ahead of the New Jersey Devils for seventh place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, while the loss snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Penguins. The Pens missed out on an opportunity to tie the Philadelphia Flyers with 64 points.
Reimer was called on early to make a big save, stopping a Matt Cooke backhander on a partial breakaway nearly seven minutes into the contest.
Part of the Leafs' game plan was to hit All-Star defenseman Kris Letang at ever opportunity, and the tactic caused some severe contention over the course of the entire evening. Letang was hit with an inadvertent high stick from Phil Kessel, who was engaged in a check with another Penguin. The blade of Kessel's stick sliced a gash open on the left side of Letang's nose, and the defender spent a lot of the game hitting every Leaf that moved in retaliation.
Late in the opening stanza, a Joey Crabb shot trickled under Pittsburgh starter Brent Johnson but Ben Lovejoy, who was back in the lineup in place of injured blueliner Deryk Engelland, punched the puck out of harm's way while sprawled in the crease behind the Penguins' netminder.
Pittsburgh appeared to take the lead early in the second period following some great work along the boards by Malkin. The Hart Trophy candidate dug the puck out of a defender's skates along the left wing wall, then made an excellent pass to linemate Chris Kunitz in front of the Maple Leafs' net. Kunitz got the puck past Reimer but upon video review, it was obvious the winger had employed a distinct kicking motion to beat the goalie. The goal was correctly disallowed, and the teams entered into a scoreless third period.
A sequence with just over six minutes left in regulation would determine the game's outcome and as happens so many times, a close call at one end then leads to another at the opposite end of the rink.
James Neal deflected a Brooks Orpik shot over Reimer and off the cross bar, and Toronto headed out on a rush in the other direction. Mikhail Grabovski hit MacArthur with a perfect feed as he was cutting in on net to Johnson's left and when it looked like he was going to the backhand, the goalie bit on the move. MacArthur instead flipped the puck back over to the forehand side, and was able to stuff the puck into the gaping cage.
MacArthur's 16th goal of the season gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead with just 6:05 left on the clock, and gave the Toronto winger four goals in his last three games. He now has seven goals and 18 points in 20 lifetime game against the Penguins.
A night after Pittsburgh came back on netminder Jonas Gustavsson, they would not be as fortunate against Reimer. He shut the door the rest of the way in posting his first whitewash since opening night in a 32-save effort against the Montreal Canadiens. The win for Reimer broke a personal three-game losing skid (0-2-1)