Kessel, Bernier help surging Leafs stop Ducks 6-2
TORONTO (AP) - Jonathan Bernier extended one streak Tuesday night while halting another.
Bernier stopped 40 shots in leading Toronto to a 6-2 win over Anaheim before an energetic Air Canada Centre crowd of 18,932. Bernier anchored the Maple Leafs' sixth straight victory and was instrumental in halting the Ducks' seven-game winning streak.
Toronto also handed Anaheim its first loss in eight games this month. The Maple Leafs' victory came after a 4-3 win over the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, two games Bernier said give his club a definite confidence boost.
''We've been on a good stretch but I think the last two that we've played were a great challenge for us,'' he said. ''(They're) big teams, they're strong, have a good forecheck, they have skill, so I thought that was a great step forward for our team and our confidence.''
Toronto improved to 14-7-0 at home by outscoring Anaheim 4-1 in the third period. More impressive, the Maple Leafs are 10-1-1 since a 9-2 home loss to Nashville on Nov. 18.
''I think that was an event for our group,'' Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. ''It's embarrassing. It's one of the things that hopefully crystalized our group and I think it has done that.''
However, Carlyle thinks the Leafs haven't been at their best the past two games.
''I think we were very opportunistic tonight,'' he said. ''I feel we are slipping the last couple of games.
''We have to get back to that more energetic, more stop-and-go, more straight-line hockey. We do have some players who continue to do it, but I think as a whole we feel our game has slipped.''
Carlyle thought Bernier's play, particularly in the first two periods, gave Toronto a chance.
''He made some big stops for us early in the hockey game,'' Carlyle said. ''He was the main reason we got ourselves in a position to win the hockey game.''
The Maple Leafs capitalized in the third, when Phil Kessel scored two of their four goals.
David Booth scored his first of the season unassisted at 4:37 before Nazem Kadri got his ninth at 5:28 to put Toronto ahead 4-1. Anaheim starter Frederik Andersen was replaced by backup Ilya Bryzgalov following Kadri's goal.
Ryan Kesler pulled Anaheim to 4-2 with his 11th of the season at 8:35. Kessel, however, cemented the win on the power play at 15:23 before adding his 17th goal at 18:17.
''For 50 minutes I thought we played really hard and played good. Then it got silly,'' Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. ''They're very opportunistic, so if you give them those opportunities when you lose focus they're going to put pucks in the net.''
Boudreau also had praise for Bernier.
''He was good,'' he said. ''He made a lot of great saves, but we missed a lot of really open chances where we didn't hit the net.
''The big difference was they hit the net on a lot of those great chances and we missed the net.''
Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul also scored for Toronto.
Sami Vatanen had the other goal for Anaheim, which fell to 11-4-2 on the road.
Anaheim outshot Toronto 17-11 in the first and had both power-play chances in the period, but the Leafs got the only goal. Bozak scored his 12th of the season at 15:12, poking a loose puck in front past Andersen.
The Ducks held a 14-5 shots advantage in the second, but still trailed 2-1. Lupul put Toronto ahead 2-0 at 1:31 with his seventh of the season when his innocent-looking one-timer from near the boards eluded Andersen.
Vatanen's short-handed goal at 13:13 cut Toronto's lead to 2-1. Vatanen scored his ninth of the season when his wrist shot from the faceoff circle beat Bernier.
Toronto improved to 14-0 when scoring first and 13-0 after leading through two periods. The Leafs also haven't lost to Anaheim since Oct. 21, 2008, a 3-2 shootout decision.
NOTES: James van Riemsdyk and Kessel both got assists on Bozak's first-period goal, extending their point streaks to five games. ... Maple Leafs players Lupul, Peter Holland, Daniel Winnik and Stephane Robidas are all former Ducks. Carlyle was behind Anaheim's bench for seven seasons, guiding the club to a Stanley Cup title in 2006-07. ... Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner was a first-round draft pick by Anaheim (No. 17) in 2008 but never played a regular-season game before being dealt to the Leafs. ... Toronto came in averaging an NHL-best 3.37 goals per game. ... It was the 550th career NHL game for Boudreau.