Leafs blow lead to Sharks

The Canadian Press
Stephen Whyno

TORONTO—Things are going so poorly for Jonathan Bernier that even the shots that should sail wide are beating him.
This time it was a puck off the shin of teammate Peter Holland that went past Bernier as the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in overtime last night at Air Canada Centre.
Bernier played well after replacing injured goalie Garret Sparks but was left without a victory this season after Brent Burns’ game-winner.
“I don’t know what I’ve done wrong to someone because I can’t get that one bounce,” said Bernier, who allowed three goals on 27 shots in relief.
“I thought I made the saves I had to make,” he noted.
“Obviously you want to stop all of it but I felt pretty good about my game.”
Bernier fell to 0-8-3 in large part because of defensive miscues.
Toronto (10-13-7) spotted the Sharks an early two-goal lead, then blew its own two-goal lead later.
Sparks left the game midway through the first after allowing goals to Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau.
Leafs’ coach Mike Babcock said the lower-body injury to Sparks, and an upper-body injury to forward Nick Spaling, appear to be “long-term.”
With James Reimer already out with a groin injury, that means the net belongs to Bernier—beginning tomorrow against the L.A. Kings.
“He’s starting the next game,” Babcock said. “He’s got to dig in, and he’s got to compete and he’s got to battle and he’s got to find his mojo.
“He gets an opportunity now that he might not have gotten, so work and keep it.”
Bernier didn’t have time to think about playing against the Sharks (16-14-1) because he was abruptly thrust into action when Sparks was injured.
Going into the game cold, the 27-year-old found a rhythm quickly and was excellent in robbing Marc-Edouard Vlasic with a glove save and stopping Chris Tierney on a penalty shot.
“I thought my depth was good, angles, a lot of shots that hit right [in] the crest,” Bernier noted.
“I thought it was another step in the right direction tonight.”
Holland, Leo Komarov, James van Riemsdyk, and Michael Grabner scored in regulation to get the Leafs to overtime for the third game in a row and 10th time this season.
Vlasic and Matt Nieto later scored on Bernier to help the Sharks erase a third-period deficit.
San Jose improved to 12-5-1 on the road—with the 25 points leading the NHL.
It has left players wondering why that same success hasn’t been there at home.
“We don’t really beat ourselves on the road,” noted Pavelski, who scored his 15th goal of the season and 109th since the end of the 2012-13 lockout—a total that’s second only to Alex Ovechkin’s 150.
“It has been a tough stretch,” he added. “We love playing at home but we definitely expect to be better.
“We have to find a solution.”
The solution last night was a heads-up play by Burns, who set up Pavelski earlier and then got the winner when his centering pass went off Holland and in 2:13 into the 3-on-3 overtime.
“I don’t know if Burns meant to do that or not, but it seemed like he did and he made a good play right off my shin pad and in,” Holland noted.
“Tough way to lose it.”
Bernier’s struggles had cost the Leafs a handful of games this season, but no one in the locker-room blamed him for this defeat.
He was screened on Vlasic’s third-period goal while the team defence in front of him led to Nieto’s that tied the score.
Then there was the shot off Holland and in, which left the forward wondering about near misses by Joffrey Lupul and Daniel Winnik.
“Bernie’s a great teammate. We’ve been rooting for him all year,” Holland said.
“We wanted to get this one for him, for sure.
“To lose it like that kind of sucks,” he added.
“We had some opportunities to win the game: ‘Lupes’ rings one off the cross bar, Winny had a point-blank one there on the 2-on-1 with me,” Holland noted.
“It’s a game of inches and they found a way tonight.”
Elsewhere in the NHL, L.A. blanked Montreal 3-0, Chicago beat Edmonton 4-0, Calgary downed Dallas 3-1, Philadelphia upended Vancouver 2-0, and Minnesota dumped the N.Y. Rangers 5-2.
Florida beat New Jersey 5-1, Buffalo blanked Anaheim 3-0, St. Louis edged Nashville 2-1, Colorado nipped the N.Y. Islanders 2-1, and Columbus topped Arizona 7-5.