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After trading Clarkson, Maple Leafs beat Flyers thanks to Bernier

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TORONTO (CP) - In their first game without the traded David Clarkson, the Toronto Maple Leafs got a stellar performance from Jonathan Bernier to beat the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bernier stopped 47 of the 49 shots he faced in the 3-2 victory Thursday night at Air Canada Centre that came mere hours after the Leafs dealt Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for injured winger Nathan Horton.

As Monday's trade deadline approaches, no one is untouchable, save perhaps for young defenceman Morgan Rielly. General manager Dave Nonis showed that by trading Clarkson and his seemingly untradeable contract that could have weighed the Leafs down for five more years.

If Bernier plays consistently like he did in beating the Flyers, the 26-year-old goaltender could be darn close to untouchable. Bernier is a restricted free agent this summer and with the Leafs (25-31-5) 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 NHL career, Bernier was derailed by injuries late and the Leafs collapsed to miss the playoffs.

Recently, the Laval, Que., native 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 (26-25-11).

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 Phil Kessel and Tyler 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.

Mason was barely tested in his first action since Feb. 8 and gave up a power-play goal to Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf early in the third period. This 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 Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn to make it interesting. But they still lost their second straight game to a team in the Connor McDavid derby, not playoff contention.

Notes — St. Louis Blues assistant GM 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.


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