Maple Leafs slip past Coyotes 2-1 in shootout

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 19, 2013 at 10:55 pm •  Published: December 19, 2013

TORONTO (AP) — James Reimer lifted his arms in relief after making a shootout save on Antonie Vermette.

By beating the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs shook off their recent struggles.

"It hasn't been a good feeling around here the past couple days," said winger Joffrey Lupul, who scored the shootout winner. "It's funny how even with an ugly, grind-it-out win like that, you come to the rink tomorrow feeling a lot better about yourselves."

The Leafs got shootout goals by Lupul and James van Riemsdyk and a couple of stops from Reimer, who made 34 saves.

The Leafs had the stronger play in regulation and the elimination of the kind of mistakes that led to 10 losses in their previous 13 games.

"I thought individually guys really limited our turnovers and the chances we gave up for them to try and get opportunities," said center Peter Holland, who assisted on Troy Bodie's first-period goal.

"It just goes to show that when we do execute what we plan on doing, things will fall into place for us."

Coach Randy Carlyle spent eight-plus hours at the rink Wednesday with the coaching staff on a day off for players devising what he hoped was a plan to turn the Leafs' fortunes around.

Presented at the morning skate was a blue print that included a harder forecheck and more aggressive defensive zone play.

For the most part, the Leafs followed that against Phoenix.

A strong forecheck was evident on Bodie's first goal of the season and first in a Leafs uniform, thanks to work from Holland and Jerry D'Amigo. The puck got out to defenseman Cody Franson at the point, and Bodie was in a good spot to put the rebound in on Mike Smith.

"(Forechecking is) something we've been stressing," Bodie said. "I think we did a good job of it on the goal. We got a good dump and we had two guys in on it right away and then the third guy joined. We were able to come out with it."

Toronto had tighter defense than it had displayed in a loss two days earlier to the Florida Panthers. That helped the lead stand up until Martin Hanzal scored 15:08 into the third.

Reimer, who started only because Carlyle said Jonathan Bernier was dealing with an unspecified "ailment," was satisfied with how his teammates contained the Coyotes and rebounded from a loss to Florida.

"We all make mistakes," Reimer said. "We sometimes don't show up in a way we want to. I think you're judged on how you respond. I thought we did a great job tonight. We really came collectively and everyone bought in."

Reimer turned aside attempts from Radim Vrbata and then Vermette in the shootout, but it was Smith's near-save on van Riemsdyk in the first round that caused a lengthy review.

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