Brendan Leipsic scores 1st NHL goal; Leafs down Canucks

Brandon Leipsic scored his first NHL goal to help the Maple Leafs top the Canucks 5-2.

VANCOUVER — Brendan Leipsic knew he would be playing on one coast or the other Saturday night.

He’s glad he got the call to go west.

The rookie forward scored his first NHL goal in his first game as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2.

“It feels amazing,” he said. “You work hard all your life to get to this point.”

Leipsic was getting ready to travel with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League to St. John’s for a weekend set with the IceCaps in Newfoundland when the injury-depleted Leafs informed him he was needed in Vancouver.

“I was kind of in limbo, not sure if I was going to get the call this way,” said the 21-year-old. “It was one end of Canada or the other. I’m happy it was this one.”

As is custom in the league these days, the Leafs let Leipsic lead them out for warmups, but made the Winnipeg native do a couple solo laps before joining him on the ice.

“I expected that,” said Leipsic, who was acquired in a trade with Nashville last season. “I had a lot of fun with it. That’s all about your first-game experience. You only get one first game.”

Mark Arcobello added his first two goals of the season 17 seconds apart and James Reimer made 17 stops for Toronto (20-25-9), which entered play last in the overall standings and won in regulation for just the second time since Jan. 6.

Jake Gardiner chipped in with two assists, while Brad Boyes and Leo Komarov added empty netters in the final minute.

“We finally started to get the bounces and got rewarded for all our shots and traffic and just doing the right things,” said Reimer. “It was a good feeling.”

The Maple Leafs — who came in on a three-game slide and were just 3-10-2 over their last 15 — stunned the hockey world by trading captain Dion Phaneuf to Ottawa earlier this week, and iced a lineup that included a number of youngsters and minor leaguers.

“We’ve worked real hard on the trip, could have had better success than we had, but tonight we were rewarded,” said Toronto head coach Mike Babcock, whose team had been outscored 15-6 over its last three games. “We did a good job of getting on top of them.”

Daniel Sedin and Sven Baertschi scored for Vancouver (22-21-12), which had won two in a row to get back in the Western Conference playoff race after dropping four straight. Ryan Miller made 33 saves.

“We did everything that teams do to lose games,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin. “Execution, smartness, timely goals … we did everything wrong in a game we must win.”

Up 2-1 and leading 31-13 on the shot clock after two periods, Toronto stretched its advantage to two at 3:54 of the third when Leipsic batted a puck out of midair in front of a helpless Miller.

Leipsic arrived in Vancouver on Friday evening and had his parents in the crowd.

“They found a way. It was kind of planes, trains and automobiles to get here,” he said. “Definitely a real special day.”

Baertschi buried a rebound with 1:47 left in regulation to get the Canucks within one, but Boyes and Komarov scored into empty nets as Toronto collected its first victory in Vancouver since November 2003.

Visiting fans decked out in blue and white chanted and cheered as the final seconds wound down before the Leafs players spilled over the boards to celebrate a complete victory.

“Our guys played one of the best games I’ve seen,” said Reimer. “It was just fun to be there behind them.”

The Canucks grabbed the lead 3:18 into the second when Daniel Sedin buried his 22nd of the season and first in seven games.

Arcobello, who was pointless in all 13 of his NHL games this season before Saturday, got that one back 1:09 later when he jumped on a turnover and ripped a shot past Miller.

Arcobello then put his team ahead 17 seconds later when he shovelled a loose puck home after Gardiner drove past Radim Vrbata.

“It’s nice to have a big win on the road and get some confidence back as a team and some smiling faces again,” said Arcobello. “The object here is to win games and tonight was just a step in the right direction.”

Notes: The Canucks donned black throwback jerseys that featured the “flying skate” logo the last wore in 1997. … Vancouver announced Friday that defenceman Alexander Edler and forward Brandon Sutter will each miss at least six weeks after suffering injuries on Tuesday in Colorado. Edler was hurt blocking a shot with his foot. Sutter broke his jaw after taking a puck to the face. … Leafs centre Nazem Kadri sat out for a second night in a row with a lower-body injury. … Henrik Sedin played his 1,141th game for the Canucks to pass team president Trevor Linden for the all-time record.

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