BOSTON - Fewer than 12 seconds remained on the clock, the visitors clinging to the lead and their season amid a throng of furious black and gold, a future Hall of Famer bearing down on the 25-year-old from Morweena, Manitoba. Employing the very last fibers of his goal stick, James Reimer turned the puck aside, high and into the netting, Jaromir Jagr looking skyward in disbelief.
"He's got me a few times in practice with the old end of the stick there," Cody Franson grinned moments afterward. "He says it's a skill save. He's probably done that to me 40 times this year."
It would be the 41st save of 43 on the night for Reimer in game 5, he and the Leafs staving off elimination by the slimmest of margins, a edge of seat gripping 2-1 victory at TD Garden, the series shifting back to Toronto for game 6 on Sunday evening.
Reimer turned aside 35 of 36 shots over a mesmerizing final two frames, including all but one in a third period dominated by the Bruins.
"You need goaltending to win games, that's just what it comes down to every night," said Clarke MacArthur, who potted the eventual game-winner. "There's no trick or secret to it. You're going to make mistakes and [have] breakdowns and that's what he's there for."
"He's a very talented goalie," added Franson, "we owe him big for this one."
Unlikely momentum and considerable swagger from a stinging overtime defeat in game 4 proved evident on this night, the Leafs full of belief with their season on the line.
"We came in here with a mindset just to get back to Toronto and give ourselves a chance and we've done that now," said MacArthur.
Hardly resembling a team wilting on the ropes, the Leafs stormed the Bruins in the opening frame, outshooting a tense home side by a 19-8 margin, only the brilliance of Tuukka Rask holding them at bay. Midway through the middle period their persistence finally paid dividends, Tyler Bozak notching his first of the postseason, breaking free shorthanded before beating Rask for the game's opening goal.
MacArthur increased the lead to two in the early minutes of the third - his second in as many nights after a pair of games in the press box - picking off a Johnny Boychuk attempt along the wall before sliding the puck around Rask.
The goal would prove enormous.
With wave upon wave of fierce aggression, Boston would storm the house in the final 18 minutes of regulation, a blast from Zdeno Chara closing the gap to one. More theatrics from Reimer, a crossbar from Boychuk, and a massive hold on the penalty kill would seal victory and send the series back to Toronto.
It was yet another display of fortitude from a group that refuses to bow to expectation or pressure.
"They obviously didn't want to have to come back to Toronto and play another game," Bozak stated in a joyous visitors dressing room. "We're excited to get to that game and [now] anything can happen."
And as for that stop on Jagr, which procured the gutsy victory in the dying moments of regulation, Reimer would respond as Franson and others have surely heard in the past.
"It's a skill save," he smirked.
1. Reimer steals one
Forty-four pucks were fired at Reimer on Friday evening, all but one turned aside. For perhaps the first time all series - game 2 was less spectacular than the numbers may have suggested - the Leafs goaltender stole his team a victory. The splendid stop on Jagr was one of many of such brilliance. "He's kept us in games when we needed him to and he's made opportune saves at the perfect times," said Bozak, who tallied his first career playoff goal on a shorthanded breakaway.
It was just moments before that Bozak marker that Reimer made what proved to be just one of a number of a game-changing saves. Extending his right pad to the maximum allowable with a glaring cage open, Reimer turned aside Patrice Bergeron and kept the score even at zero in the opening stages of the second. "It was just one of those plays where I think the puck got deflected to him back-door and you just try and get something over there," he said. "Lucky enough that I got my toe over there and lucky enough that he hit it."
Outplayed by Rask in the opening four games of the series, Reimer stepped to the forefront at a crucial time - rebound control remaining an issue at various points however - now with a .928 save percentage on the 207 shots he's faced thus far. "When you get out there you always want to be the best for your teammates, regardless of if the other goalie is letting in 10 a night or zero," he said. "Whatever the situation is you want to play the best for your teammates."
"As a young goaltender he's been presented with a lot of pressure and he's remained fairly calm and level-headed," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said of Reimer. "You can see the growth of a hockey player, specifically a goaltender that's finding his way and learning some of the intricacies of playoff hockey and the experience should be real valuable to him as it should be to all of our younger players."
2. MacArthur's redemption
MacArthur logged a mere 12 shifts in the victory, just seven-plus minutes to his name. But for the second straight game, the 28-year-old would score, the latest unquestionably the biggest of his seven-year career. "I feel like I'm reenergized," said MacArthur, who sat for games 2 and 3, returning to score in game 4 on Wednesday night. "These big games I've always loved playing in them, throughout juniors and wherever, these playoff games have always been great for me. It's just nice to have got that chance again to be back out there." MacArthur had endured a 15-game goal drought during the latter stages of the regular season, those offensive woes now in the past. "That's a great sign for a coach that you've got a veteran guy that steps in and provides you with some offence," said Carlyle.
"He's obviously a little upset sitting out," Bozak added, "you never want to sit out this time of year, [but] it maybe put a little spark in him."
Joining MacArthur with unlikely and continued performance were Jake Gardiner, who led the Leafs with 24-plus minutes of ice-time, Mikhail Grabovski, sharp in 21-plus minutes, Matt Frattin, who tied for the team lead with seven hits and even Ryan O'Byrne, who struggled at points but still managed to block five shots, most of any player on this night.
3. The "Mean bastard" approach
"... just try to be a mean bastard," Carl Gunnarsson said of the approach demanded against the Bruins lethal line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, which had combined for 22 points in the first four game of the series.
More prominent than simple approach, however, was the tactical change Carlyle made for the fifth game of the series in opposing the most dangerous combination of the postseason to date. As he had done at various points in the regular season, Carlyle reconfigured a checking line on Friday night, teaming Mikhail Grabovski (21 minutes), Jay McClement (20 minutes) and Nik Kulemin (18 minutes) together whenever Krejci's line took the ice.
The adjustment worked about as well as one could expect. Krejci, Horton and Lucic combined for one shot in the opening two periods and just two on the evening (they combined for 13 in game 4), the Bruins pivot chipping in with a quiet helper on Chara's goal in the third.
Additionally sturdy in slowing the unit were Gunnarsson and Dion Phaneuf, the latter rebounding from an off-kilter performance in game 4.
4. Withstanding the onslaught
The Leafs managed just four shots in the final period and just two in the final 18 minutes. Overwhelmed by the Bruins furious pushback, they stopped skating, failed to clear pucks at opportune times and lost physical battles amid lengthy shifts in the defensive zone. Still, they managed to find the means to hang on, however coarsely. "They had a pretty good amount of pressure in that period, but it's those situations where you have to learn to be calm," Cody Franson explained, his effort of nearly 23 minutes second only to Gardiner. "We've tried to do that as a group this whole year when trying to hold a lead is just teach ourselves to not get too excited or overwhelmed ... to be able to keep our composure and not just slap the puck around and give them chances at us that aren't necessary."
Toronto had a 20-2-1 record when leading after two periods in the regular season, the win total second only to Chicago, who posted 26 victories in such situations.
Crucial to withstanding on Friday evening was a notable effort from the penalty kill. With fewer than four minutes on the clock and the Bruins onslaught in full force, Bozak flipped a puck over the boards and was whistled for delay of game. Rather than wilt amid the pressure, however, the Leaf penalty killers emerged, Boston managing just a single shot.
"That's a very critical time of the game for us," said Franson. "Our kill's been good for us all year. We've got good personnel out there, guys that put their bodies on the line for the team and are more than willing to do that. They're hard-working guys. We've been successful because of that."
5. High stakes game
Emerging with another momentous performance that night, MacArthur recalled Friday morning some of the high stakes games he had been a part of in the past, including the gold medal match of the 2005 World Junior Championships. "It's a little nerve-racking during the day," he reminisced of such instances. "You get to the rink and the best thing is just [to] go over things in your head on what you're going to do out there and certain plays that happen every game and be able to execute those plays." MacArthur and the Canadians emerged with the gold that day in Grand Forks, North Dakota, defeating Russia decisively by a 6-1 final. Joining the now 28-year-old on a historically stacked squad were Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Andrew Ladd, Corey Perry, Dion Phaneuf and Bruins opponent Patrice Bergeron.
MacArthur, who scored four goals in the tournament and is now three games into his first NHL postseason, also recalled high stakes moments he faced in winning the WHL championship with Medicine Hat and emerging with an Alberta Junior Hockey League title with the Drayton Valley Thunder. "I've been to some big games in the past," he said. "It's a mental thing. You get so ramped up for these games. There's certain plays you'd make and you don't make them because you're over-jittered."
Quote of the Night
"I'm sure that we've poked the Bruins. They're going to be a very desperate hockey club come Sunday night. And we better be equally as desperate."
-Randy Carlyle on what lies ahead for his team in game 6.
Quote of the Night II
"He's got me a few times in practice with the old end of the stick there. He says it's a skill save. He's probably done that to me 40 times this year."
-Cody Franson on the stop James Reimer made on Jaromir Jagr in the final seconds of victory.
Quote of the Night III
"Everything's on the line. Desperation is a word that people use in these situations and we're no different."
-Carlyle ahead of game 5 on Friday morning.
1: Point for the line of David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic on Friday evening. The unit combined for 22 in the opening four games of the series.
2: Combined shots for Krejci, Horton and Lucic in game 5.
13: Combined shots for Krejci, Horton and Lucic in game 4.
2: Goals for Clarke MacArthur in fewer than 16 minutes of ice-time in the past two games.
28: Total shots for James van Riemsdyk, leading all players in the postseason.
27-13: Blocked shots advantage for the Leafs in game 5.
208-180: Shot advantage for the Bruins this series.
7-24: Tyler Bozak on the draw in game 5.
4-15: Leafs on the draw in the offensive zone.
8-10: Mikhail Grabovski on the draw in game 5.
24:05: Jake Gardiner, leading the Leafs.
Minute Watch II
21:18: Mikhail Grabovski, second among Toronto forwards.
Minute Watch III
21:38: Dion Phaneuf, fourth among Toronto defenders.
Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday night.