Jonathan Bernier appeared to be well on his way to earning his second shutout of the
season before he let in
what can only be described as a fluke goal, writes Mike Brophy. But the Maple Leafs goalie made amends in the shootout for a 2-1 Toronto win.
Jonathan Bernier made amends.
The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender appeared to be well on his way to earning his second shutout of the season with his team leading 1-0 late in the third period when he let in what can only be described as a fluke goal. He tried to deflect a shot by Michael Ryder of the New Jersey Devils into the corner, but the puck hopped over his stick and into the net.
"I didn't want to have a shutout I guess and I wanted to practice my shootouts," Bernier joked after the game. "I'm probably going to do that play 100 times again and if you asked me to do that again I probably couldn't do that again. You know we showed good character coming back to win that game. It was a great team effort."
The Maple Leafs were out-shot - surprise! surprise! - 35-28, but arguably had the better scoring chances. New Jersey goalie Cory Schnieder played superbly and came up with the save of the night in overtime when the Leafs broke in three-on-one and set up Phil Kessel for what certainly looked like the winning goal.
After going pointless in his past two games, which can often signal the start of a goal drought for Phil Kessel, he brought the fans out of their seats with his 10th goal of the season at 8:12 of the third period. With the Leafs on the power play, Kessel roared into the New Jersey zone, split the defence and beat Schnieder with a low shot.
"Franson passed it to me and I just built a little speed and was able to get through the defence and beat him five-hole," mumbled Kessel after the game. "I'm just playing, right?"
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said Kessel's goal reminded him of former Maple Leaf superstar Frank Mahovlich the way Kessel was able to wind up, gather speed, and blow past two defenders. Asked if he knew who Mahovlich is, Kessel offered, "Not really."
David Clarkson continues to be one of Toronto's hardest workers, but the fruits of his efforts have not arrived. The former Devil now has just one assist in his first six games with the Maple Leafs. He had a couple of glorious chances to register his first goal as a Maple Leaf in the first period, but came up empty. First he was sent in alone at 3:20, but was turned back by Schneider. The rebound dropped behind Schneider, but Clarkson, who was parked on the doorstep, wasn't able to tap it in. Two minutes later he was set up in the slot and fired a one-timer than Schneider again turned away.
The JVR experiment
With centres Tyler Bozak and David Bolland injured long term, the Maple Leafs have switched left-winger James van Riemsdyk into the middle on a line with Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. The converted winger was two-for-eight (25 per cent) on faceoffs in the first period; improved to three-for-10 (30 per cent) after 40 minutes and finished the game six-for-15 (40 per cent).
Carlyle was particularly pleased with his team's ability to draw penalties against the tight-checking Devils. "There was one thing that stood out in the hockey game that we haven't done for a while," Carlyle said. "We drew six power plays so we were doing things right as far as getting the puck into the zone and creating more offensive zone time. We played more of a chip-and-support game and drew six power plays. That is a starting point for our team. We know our special teams have been good and our goaltenders have been good, but our five-on-five play needed addressing. It's only a stepping stone for our hockey club."
The Maple Leafs had a full four-minute advantage followed by a two-minute advantage in the opening period, but were unable to strike despite controlling the puck with efficiency. Kessel's third-period goal was scored with the man advantage.
Hall of Fame celebration
Prior to the start of the game the latest inductees to the Hockey Hall of Fame were introduced at Air Canada Centre. They include the late Fred Shero, represented by his son and Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray, Geraldine Heaney, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan. There were two sure-fire Hall of Famers involved in the Leafs-Devils game, both playing for New Jersey; backup goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Jaromir Jagr. The 43-three-year old Jagr was New Jersey's best skater in the game which speaks volumes about the state of the franchise. He played more like a 41-year-old.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.