For Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer, Saturday’s 4-1 win over Washington marked a milestone. It was his first 40-plus-save effort since joining the Panthers last season.
Reimer made 41 saves against the Capitals in the first game since Roberto Luongo injured his right hand and was placed on injured reserve. Luongo is not eligible to return to play until Saturday, meaning Reimer will earn the lion’s share of playing time for at least a week.
“With him hurt a little bit, you go out there and you take it game-by-game and just try and stop the puck and give the guys a chance,” Reimer said Saturday night. “The puck’s the same size, so go out there and have fun.”
The 41 stops were the most for Reimer since a 43-save effort nearly two years ago as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His career high is 49 saves, accomplished four times in Toronto.
Reimer improved to 15-2-3 when making at least 40 saves.
In his next game after making 40-plus saves, Reimer’s numbers are generally in line with his career averages. In those 18 games (one 43-save game was the season finale), he has a .915 save percentage and a 3.00 goals against average. He has posted back-to-back 40-save games twice in his career, and his teams are 7-9-2 the next game he plays.
Reimer got a chance to be the Panthers’ No. 1 starter at the end of last season, when Luongo missed the final five weeks with a hip injury. Reimer posted three shutouts in 15 games after Luongo’s injury, and stopped 91.7 percent of shots on goal.
On Saturday night, Reimer stood tall early, stopping 16 Capitals shots in the first period alone.
“We needed our goaltending at certain times in the game,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said Saturday. “He certainly was the first star in my mind. He was big, he was challenging the shooters. His rebound control was great. It made it a little easier for our D.”
Reimer will try to follow up Saturday’s game on Tuesday night against Montreal. He hasn’t beat the Canadiens since Oct. 2010.
McGinn scoring early
Panthers forward Jamie McGinn scored in back-to-back games last week and nearly made it three games in a row when he hit the post Saturday in Washington. McGinn, acquired from Arizona during a training camp trade, is looking to bounce back from a season in which he scored just nine goals in 72 games.
With the Panthers this year, McGinn has seen an increase in ice time while playing on the second line with Vincent Trocheck and Radim Vrbata. He is also on the second power-play unit and has averaged 15:08 of ice time per game.
He hasn’t played as much since 2013-14 with the Avalanche, when he scored 19 goals and assisted on 19 more.
“When you’re out there more of the game, you feel more a part of it and your legs are going and you’re into the game,” McGinn said. “With the opportunity, I’m just trying to run with it and do the best that I can and help my teammates out in any way I can.”
McGinn had a hot start last year with the Coyotes, scoring three goals in the season’s first seven games. But he had just six goals in the remaining 65 games.
McGinn’s game revolves around getting to the net and scoring on tips and rebounds. His first goal in Philadelphia last week came on a tip-in on the power play. His second goal against Pittsburgh came on a rebound.
“We’re trying to create a lot of traffic and put pucks to the net from bad angles because a lot of the goals now, you watch the NHL, they’re off rebounds and everything,” McGinn said. “There’s some goals that are tic-tac-toe plays. But for the majority, it’s getting pucks to the blue paint, getting your second and third opportunities. If you don’t score right away, it breaks teams down.”