Patrice Bergeron had practically a wide open net at which to shoot. The game was halfway over and neither team had been able to score.
But Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer somehow managed to suddenly shift to his right and make a toe save on the dangerous bid.
That was a major turning point in the contest for the Maple Leafs, who went on to win, 2-1, at TD Garden in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to force a Game 6 in Toronto Sunday night.
Shortly after that save, Tyler Bozak potted a shorthanded goal at 11:27 of the second after an Andrew Ference turnover, and Clarke MacArthur scored early in the third for his second goal in two games after not dressing for the previous two.
MacArthur took advantage of a turnover and backhanded a shot by Tuukka Rask (31 saves) at 1:58 of the third, giving the Leafs a 2-0 lead.
The Maple Leafs fended off a furious flurry in the final eight minutes of the game, which started when Zdeno Chara made it a one-goal game at 11:12.
Reimer wound up with 43 saves, 35 in the final 40 minutes . Another tough one came with just over 11 seconds left when Jaromir Jagr, who was in tight, rifled a shot that went off the knob of Reimer’s stick.
“It was a fun game,’’ said Reimer. “We’re in a series where it doesn’t mean much if you don’t come out hard the next game. I thought we played well tonight as a team. We battled hard and obviously, we were in a tough position. But again, Boston came hard and they brought everything they could, especially in the third. Clarke was able to get a nice goal there and give us a bit of a lead and then we were just able to dig in and kind of weather that storm.’’
When asked how he was able to make the save on Bergeron, Reimer laughed.
“I don’t know, I’m not quite sure,’’ he said. “It’s one of those plays where I think the puck got deflected to him backdoor and you just try to get something over there. Lucky enough that I got my toe over there and lucky enough that he hit it. I think he still had some room on the side there, too. So, it was one of those lucky saves.’’
On the late stop on Jagr, a scoring chance that would have tied the game, Reimer joked that it was a skill save.
“It’s kind of funny, I have a couple of teammates who hit [the knob of his stick] quite often, so I always bug them about it being a skill save,’’ he said. “But it’s just one of those things where you’re just trying to throw something in the way of the puck and lucky enough, it went off my knob. That’s a lucky bounce. I’d be an idiot if I said [I] was trying to stop it with my knob.’’
Reimer said despite the fact the team faced elimination coming into Friday’s road game, they were optimistic they could win in Boston, as they did in Game 2
“Everyone in here wanted to bring their best game, but you can’t be putting too much pressure on yourself and too much expectations,’’ he said. “When you do that, you start to squeeze your stick and things don’t work out. You have to try to stay even-keeled and be as intense as you can.’’
As outstanding as Rask has been at the other end, Reimer said he doesn’t see it as a competition in terms of outplaying each other.
“When you get out there, you always want to be the best for your teammates regardless of if the other goalie is letting 10 in a night or zero,’’ said Reimer. “Whatever the situation is, you want to play the best for your teammates. I can see why he’s been getting a lot of accolades, he’s been playing really well this series and I’m sure he’s going to continue to play really well.’’
Despite being bombarded by the Bruins in the latter part of the game, Reimer said a little fatigue was the only ill effect.
“I’m still limber and ready to go,’’ he said. “Obviously, in a game like that, you’re a little tired and stuff, but you’ve got to be ready to go.’’Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.