Two nights after being benched against Tampa Bay and hearing goalie Francois Allaire coach maligned, James Reimer felt he had something to prove Wednesday night against Carolina.
The Toronto rookie made 36 saves, and defenseman Dion Phaneuf had two power-play goals and added an assist in the Maple Leafs' 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
"To be honest, I had a little bit of extra motivation today because I had heard through the grapevine that Tampa Bay had said that something to the effect that I was just a typical Francois Allaire goalie and they knew how to beat me," Reimer said. "I'm not going to lie — that kind of rubbed me the wrong way and ticked me off."
Toronto is 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points behind ninth-place Carolina and four back of eighth-place Buffalo for the final playoff spot.
"They're huge points for our team, and it's a big win," Phaneuf said.
Phaneuf broke a tie with 9:09 left in the second period, blasting a shot past Cam Ward's glove, then helped set up Tyler Bozak's goal 12 seconds later. Bozak took advantage of weak defensive coverage by the Hurricanes and tipped Darryl Boyce's centering pass from the boards past Ward.
Coming off a 6-2 home loss to Tampa Bay on Monday night, Toronto is 5-0-2 in its last seven road games.
There was some question before the game whether Reimer was fatigued in his first NHL season.
"I'm sick of hearing that," Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. "(Ward) has played 63 games and he's not tired, but Reimer's supposed to be tired.
"If I don't play Reimer, I'm an idiot, so let's leave that rest. Reims isn't tired — he's going to have some nights where he's not as good as he is on other nights. That's like everyone in this league."
Chad LaRose scored for Carolina. The Hurricanes are 1-4-1 their last six games, failing to score more than two goals in a game during that stretch.
"We're frustrated with that one, offensively frustrated," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We've got a lot of pucks sitting around that crease, we're just having a heck of a time banging them in, and that gets frustrating."
Ward made 16 saves a night after stopping 40 shots in Carolina's 1-0 victory over Buffalo.
Both teams had power-play goals in the first period,
Carolina struck first when LaRose deflected in Brandon Sutter's wrist shot. LaRose and Sutter were inserted into the first unit of the power play because of the Hurricanes' recent ineffectiveness.
Toronto tied it late in the period when Phaneuf one-timed a shot from the blue line. The puck hit Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason in the back and got caught up in Ward's stick before tumbling over the line.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs played without Colby Armstrong after he broke a foot blocking a shot Monday. ... Nazem Kadri and Matt Lashoff played for Toronto after being recalled from the American Hockey League's Marlies on Tuesday. ... Both teams have 10 games remaining.