TORONTO — For all the troubles the Toronto Maple Leafs might’ve had in beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 Saturday night, coach Mike Babcock still took satisfaction beyond a season-best three-game winning streak.
“I think if I’m not mistaken we’ve got points in six of seven,” Babcock said, ending his post-game news conference.
The Leafs indeed have points in six of seven games after just four points total in their first 10 games. Goaltender James Reimer has started seven consecutive games, and again he was crucial to a victory.
Reimer saw 45 shots and made 43 saves to help the Leafs (5-8-4) to their first three-game winning streak since Dec. 6-16, 2014, a few weeks before Randy Carlyle was fired. Reimer got a break when two goals were disallowed, one for a kicking motion and the other for an offside play, but that was just part of his impressive night.
“I feel like the boys upstairs made more saves than I did,” Reimer said with a chuckle. “It was a wild one, really. I don’t even know what all transpired, but having those two goals called back, that’s real nice. It kind of makes up for some of the bad bounces we had earlier in the year.”
Calls certainly went the Leafs’ way against the Canucks (7-6-5), who fell to 1-3-1 on their seven-game road trip, which continues Monday in Montreal. In addition to having a Jannik Hansen goal taken off the board for kicking the puck in, Vancouver was on the losing end of a coach’s challenge ruling that Ryan Miller (36 saves) was interfered with on Joffrey Lupul’s third-period goal.
“It’s a guessing game,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. “I mean Jannik’s kicking motion, is that a distinct kicking motion or is it just him moving his skate? I learned that it is a big guessing game, and whenever it goes to those guys you never know.”
The Leafs built a 2-0 lead on goals by James van Riemsdyk and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau. Parenteau’s goal, on the power play, came amid a parade to the penalty box for Vancouver.
Canucks coach Willie Desjardins blamed that and turnovers _ a costly one led to a Shawn Matthias goal for the Leafs against his former team _ for the loss.
“It’s tough to kill off five-on-threes. We were just going to get out of it and go on the five-on-four and they scored,” Desjardins said. “The guys wanted it in the third. They came hard. But we just didn’t find a way.”
The Leafs, who surrendered a goal to Hansen in the second before Matthias restored the two-goal lead, were again tentative when ahead. Even though Hansen’s goal didn’t count, Babcock wasn’t thrilled with how his players continued to sit back.
“I thought in the third we looked like a team that isn’t used to winning, so we got on our heels instead of on our toes and playing well,” Babcock said before catching a flight to New York for the Leafs’ game Sunday night at the Rangers.
“When you’re a team that knows how to win, you come out and play the game like it’s tied and you just keep going for the next one and you just keep playing. When you don’t, you get on your heels and you stop making plays and you start flipping it out in the neutral zone so they can come again and come again and come again.”
The Canucks kept the pressure on, with Alexandre Burrows scoring midway through the third on the power play. Another Toronto penalty gave Vancouver another chance, but Reimer was strong and didn’t crack.
“I thought he played good,” Babcock said. “Good for him, he made some saves. There were some point-blank chances tonight that we don’t like to give up.”
Radim Vrbata scored with two seconds left, but an automatic review called the goal back because the play was offside.
Notes — After a moment of silence to honour victims of the Paris attacks, anthem singer Mason Greer did his entire rendition of “O Canada” in French as another tribute. … Canucks centre Brandon Sutter missed his second game with an undisclosed injury.