The charmed start to Toronto Maple Leafs rookie James Reimer's NHL career just keeps on rolling.
Reimer made 27 stops for his first career shutout on Thursday night, turning aside every Carolina Hurricanes shot in a 3-0 win as part of one of the Leafs better performances on the year.
Ten days after they had faded badly in a 6-4 loss in Carolina, Toronto came out hard from the start, at one point holding a 26-9 advantage in shots on goal and getting two timely goals from Clarke MacArthur and Darryl Boyce.
One of the game's turning points was a lengthy second period 5-on-3, which came on an ill-advised hook by Reimer on 'Canes captain Eric Staal. The Leafs penalty killers blocked shot after shot and killed it off, earning an ovation from the crowd soon afterwards.
While Boyce's 2-0 goal soon after seemed to ignite Carolina, it became Reimer's time to shine. Looking every bit the calm, cool student of Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire's economical blocking style, he was the difference over the game's final 25 minutes.
Reimer's best stop on the night came with less than a minute left in the second period, as he slid across to deny 'Canes winger Chad LaRose on a breakaway. Early in the third, he made two more saves in quick succession with Carolina pressing.
Leafs winger Kris Versteeg then added another goal early in the third to kill the 'Canes momentum.
With the shutout, Reimer's numbers improved to a 5-3-0 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. Given his play, he should get the start in the Leafs next game Saturday in Buffalo against the Sabres.
Still well out of the race, Toronto moved to within 10 points of the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, gaining two points on the ninth-place Hurricanes in the process.
Brent's big blocks
For whatever reason, Leafs fourth-liner Tim Brent seems to lead the way for his team against the Hurricanes.
Brent led the charge for Toronto's penalty kill on the 5-on-3, blocking two points shots back-to-back and then, in obvious discomfort given the second hit him in the groin area, gritting it out the rest of what turned into a wild sequence of events.
At one point, the Leafs had three defencemen on the ice -- including one without a stick -- but they managed to clear the puck just as Colby Armstrong came out of the box, giving Toronto a 2-on-0 on Ward.
They didn't convert, but in the confusion, Carolina took a too many men on the ice penalty and were again back on their heels. Boyce scored 30 seconds after that man advantage ended, as he blocked a clearing attempt in the 'Canes zone and converted on the resulting breakaway.
Brent was also a big factor in Toronto's last game against Carolina, too, scoring twice and adding an assist in only 11 minutes of ice time.
Gleason gets payback
A lot of the talk coming into the game was about 'Canes defenceman Tim Gleason, as he had dealt Leafs winger Nikolai Kulemin a stiff uppercut a week earlier when these two teams last met.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said prior to the game his team wasn't out for retribution beyond looking for another two points against a team they're chasing in the standings, but sure enough, 13 minutes into the game, tough guy Jay Rosehill dropped the mitts with Gleason.
With a distinct height advantage, Rosehill got the better of the bout, filling in for Toronto's two injured tough guys, Colton Orr (concussion) and Mike Brown (upper body).