James Reimer(notes) made 32 saves for his fourth NHL shutout, and Lombardi scored in his first game in almost a year to lift the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 2-0 season-opening victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Lombardi played in only two games with the Nashville Predators last season before sustaining a concussion that left him wondering about the future of his career. Acquired over the summer in a four-player trade, his tenure in Toronto got off to a great start.
“It was almost like (the puck) was waiting for me just to put it in,” Lombardi said of his short-handed goal. “It felt unreal, I didn’t know what to do. It kind of happened so fast. You know, it was pretty awesome. It’s hard to explain.”
The goal gave the Maple Leafs a jolt of energy after a lackluster opening period in which Montreal held a 14-4 shots advantage.
On the goal, Lombardi and Mike Brown(notes) raced in on a 2-on-1 break, and Lombardi swooped around the net and knocked a loose puck behind goalie Carey Price(notes). He celebrated his first goal since April 16, 2010, by skating straight to the Maple Leafs bench and jumping in the arms of teammates.
“I didn’t know what to do. It was the worst celebration of all time,” Lombardi said. “But it was pretty cool.”
The goal gave the Leafs a similar feel-good story to the one they enjoyed late last season with the emergence of Reimer. Now Toronto’s No. 1 goalie, Reimer picked up where he left off.
He wasn’t particularly pleased with his performance during the exhibition schedule, but felt comfortable as soon as the games started counting again.
“That’s why you can’t take too much out of preseason,” Reimer said. “Honestly, I just felt like I wasn’t getting the bounces (then). Tonight I felt that I was. You have to get pretty lucky to get a shutout.
“I thought I played pretty good, but at the same time they could have had three goals.”
The Maple Leafs were bailed out on several occasions by Reimer. He made a nice early stop on a low shot from Max Pacioretty(notes) and turned aside P.K. Subban’s(notes) one-timer, getting a fortunate break when the rebound was swept off the post and out.
“A real strong first period where we had several good scoring chances. We had good support, we attacked the net, got some rebounds,” Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said. “But once they got the short-handed goal we got away from playing our game and they took advantage of it.”
Lombardi’s goal gave Toronto a lift but the Maple Leafs were unable to beat Price on three subsequent power plays during the period. Price also came up big early in the third when Joffrey Lupul(notes) was left alone in front, getting his glove on a point-blank chance to keep it 1-0.
“He has that heavy, heavy shot, you know what I mean?” Reimer said of Phaneuf. “It was a snipe. I’m just glad I wasn’t in there.”
“We just weren’t good enough in the second period. We were complacent,” Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri said.
The Maple Leafs won despite using a patchwork lineup that included forward David Steckel, who was acquired in a trade from New Jersey on Tuesday.
NOTES: It was the 709th meeting between the teams, dating to 1917. … Montreal D Chris Campoli(notes) left with an undisclosed lower body injury during the second period and didn’t return. … The Canadiens were without Andrei Markov(notes) (knee), Blair Betts(notes) (lower body), Lars Eller(notes) (shoulder) and Alexei Emelin (healthy scratch). … Tim Connolly(notes) (upper body), Nazem Kadri(notes) (knee), Clarke MacArthur(notes) (suspension), Colton Orr(notes) (healthy scratch) and Cody Franson(notes) (healthy scratch) sat out for Toronto. … Steckel earned the third star in his Maple Leafs debut.
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