Maple Leafs hold off Flyers after big trade
TORONTO (AP) Jonathan Bernier's big game allowed the Maple Leafs to fend off the Flyers.
In their first game without the traded David Clarkson, Bernier made 47 saves and Toronto earned a 3-2 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday night.
The win came mere hours after the Leafs dealt Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for injured winger Nathan Horton.
''I'm just trying to do my job here,'' Bernier said. ''That was a tough call before the game that we found out Clarky left. But at the same time when you're not doing so well, there's going to be big changes.''
Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Dion Phaneuf scored for Toronto.
Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn scored third-period goals for Philadelphia.
The Flyers, who blew another opportunity to pick up points as they remain on the edge of the playoff race, outshot the Leafs 49-17. But Kessel and Bozak scored on point-blank rushes to chase starting goaltender Rob Zepp. Steve Mason, fresh off a two-week absence for knee surgery, replaced Zepp after two goals on eight shots.
''It breaks the momentum,'' Flyers defenseman Mark Streit said. ''Even when we were down by two, I had a really good feeling because I knew eventually we were going to get a goal and get on a roll and we were going to be able to get at least a point and come back. We just came up short a little bit.''
Mason was barely tested in his first action since Feb. 8 and gave up a power-play goal to Phaneuf early in the third period. It was Phaneuf's first game back after missing a month with a hand injury.
The Flyers dominated play and got third-period power-play goals from Giroux and Schenn to make it interesting. But they still lost their second straight game to a team in the race for likely No. 1 draft pick Connor McDavid, not playoff contention.
''We feel like we deserve better, but at the same time those games are going to happen,'' Schenn said. ''Some nights you are going to play great and get no points and other nights you may play poorly and get points.''
As Monday's trade deadline approaches, no one is untouchable for the struggling Maple Leafs, except for maybe for young defenseman Morgan Rielly.
''I think there's never anyone that's untradeable,'' Phaneuf said. ''Anyone can be moved.''
General manager Dave Nonis showed that by trading Clarkson and his lengthy contract that had five more years.
If Bernier plays as consistently as he did in beating the Flyers, the 26-year-old goaltender could also be untouchable. Bernier is a restricted free agent this summer and with the Leafs set to rebuild it's unclear how he fits into their long-term plans.
Bernier has not played as well in his second season in Toronto as he did in 2013-14, when he had a .923 save percentage. Playing the most games of his young career, Bernier was derailed by injuries late and the Leafs collapsed to miss the playoffs.
Bernier has shown flashes of being an elite starter, most notably a 31-save shootout loss in Montreal on Valentine's Day and then Thursday night's gem against Philadelphia.
''Your goalie's got to be your best player and sometimes it just has to happen,'' Leafs interim coach Peter Horachek said. ''A lot of the shots he made easy saves and a lot of them he made amazing saves. He was the No. 1 star for us, for sure.''
Notes: St. Louis Blues senior adviser to the general manager Martin Brodeur was among those in attendance for the Leafs-Flyers game. ... Zach Sill, acquired Wednesday from the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Daniel Winnik trade, made his Leafs debut.