SPORTS

Reimer says Maple Leafs are playing with integrity -- and reaping the rewards

03/31/2015 10:05 EDT | Updated 05/31/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Loud music could be heard from the nether-regions of the Leafs locker-room area, from the private dressing room the players retreat to after games when the media horde enters.

The sounds of a Toronto victory echoed for the second straight game — but only the eighth time in 39 contests in 2015.

Backed by James Reimer's 40-save performance, the Leafs continued their cameo role as spoilers with a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lighting on Tuesday. Reimer had helped the Leafs to a 4-3 overtime victory over Ottawa on Saturday.

It's only the second time the Leafs (29-42-6) have posted back-to-back wins since mid-December, when their season went south.

"We've worked hard and we've played with integrity," Reimer said of the recent run. "And you know it shows out there.

"When you play that way, sometimes you might lose but at least you lose well and you can keep your chin up. The way we've been playing here, obviously I always believed we had it in us and unfortunately it never came to fruition when it really counted. But hopefully we can put some wins together and hold our heads high going into the summer."

Reimer has been the conscience of the Leafs in some ways this season. He spoke out in early February when the team slumped to an 11th straight loss.

"We have to smarten up and play with passion, play like men, play with resolve. We don't have that right now," he said at the time.

Nazem Kadri had a goal and assist Tuesday to lead Toronto against a Tampa (47-24-7) team coming off an emotional win in Montreal the night before that secured its playoff presence.

Kadri's goal at 8:53 of the first period marked the first time the Leafs had the lead in a game in 541:08 of action.

David Booth and Morgan Rielly also scored for Toronto before 18,857 at the Air Canada Centre.

"It's just fun when you're winning, that's really the bottom line," said Kadri. "Everything that we've been through, it's hard. I think realistically in the end, that makes you stronger as a person and as a player, just being able to handle all that adversity. It came all at once, so it's not like it was in separate pieces.

"You've got to give credit to the guys, for showing some character and just being able to persevere."

Ryan Callahan scored for Tampa, which has lost three of four.

"It's a tough one, we didn't play very well," Lightning star Steven Stamkos said. "Back-to-back games, injuries, you could say all you want, but I still think we could've won that game, if we played the way we know how to win."

Defenceman Victor Hedman was injured in Montreal, joining a Tampa disabled list that already included defencemen Jason Garrison, Andrej Sustr and Braydon Coburn and centre Tyler Johnson.

That meant an NHL debut for Tampa defenceman Slater Koekkoek, who played with Rielly for Saskatchewan's Notre Dame Hounds.

Toronto's call-ups continued to tick off firsts. Defenceman T.J. Brennan, with an assist, recorded his first point as a Leaf. And forward Sam Carrick had his first NHL fight, a spirited first-period tilt with J.T. Brown.

Tampa confirmed its playoff presence with a 5-3 win Monday, completing a five-game sweep of the Habs while setting a franchise record for wins (47). Only 17 of those victories have come away from home, however.

The Lightning came into the Toronto game with 101 points, one behind Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Andrei Vasilevskiy got the Lightning start, with Ben Bishop given the night off, and finished with 25 saves.

Toronto visits Buffalo on Wednesday. The Lightning play Thursday in Ottawa.

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