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Bernier makes 26 saves, Maple Leafs shut out Kings

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves to earn his first victory of the season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 at Air Canada Centre on Saturday.

It was the 10th shutout of Bernier's NHL career and came against the team that drafted him in the first round (No. 11) in 2006. He had been 0-8-3 in 11 decisions this season.

Michael Grabner had two goals and two assists, and Leo Komarov scored twice for Toronto (11-13-7), which went 2-0-2 on its four-game homestand. Los Angeles (20-10-2) finished 3-2-1 on its six-game road trip. The Kings will host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday before heading back out on the road for another four games.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock was delighted for Bernier, who recently spent two weeks in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies on a conditioning stint. Bernier had three shutouts in four games with the Marlies.

"I would say real good for Bernie, and as good as it was for Bernie it was better for the Leafs just because it hadn't gone so good for Bernie," Babcock said. "It's got to be unbelievably hard on you mentally to get put through the ringer. He has been down to the minors, he watched (Garret) Sparks play ahead of him. It's not easy. I don't care what walk of life you are in or what you do, when someone takes your shift, takes your job, takes your position, it's hard for you. You've got to decide why you play the game. You play the game because of the joy in it and when the joy leaves you it's hard to be as good as you are capable of being."

Bernier was understandably relived to get a victory, though as he jokingly noted, "I had one last week … in the minors."

He said it was just a matter of time before he got his first NHL win since April 5.

"I have had a tough time, but I have been saying if you stick to the program and you work hard at one point you'll get rewarded," Bernier said. "I thought tonight it felt really good, but at the same time the guys played really good. That's not an easy team and we came out and battled and played a tight game."

It was Bernier's first shutout since he made 43 saves in a 4-0 victory at the Dallas Stars on Dec. 23, 2014.

The Kings outshot the Maple Leafs 10-7 in the first period, but Toronto skated off with a 1-0 lead when Komarov tipped home Matt Hunwick's shot from the left point at 5:31. Komarov has goals in back-to-back games.

Bernier brought the fans to their feet at 4:38 of the second period when he shot out his right pad at the last instant to rob Marian Gaborik from close range. On the return rush, Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth (29 saves) made a spectacular stop on Maple Leafs center Peter Holland, who broke in alone.

Five minutes later Enroth kept his team in the game with back-to-back saves on PA Parenteau and James van Riemsdyk from close range. Enroth was solid throughout the period as Toronto outshot Los Angeles 12-7.

But Toronto blew the game open in the third period.

Grabner, who was promoted to the second line from the fourth line after scoring his second goal of the season against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, made it two games in a row with a goal at 3:58 when he tipped a point shot by Nazem Kadri past Enroth. He scored again at 13:34, finishing off a 3-on-1 for his fourth of the season to make it 3-0.

Komarov grabbed a rebound off the end boards and tapped it past Enroth for his second of the night and 13th of the season at 16:38. Rookie Byron Froese scored his first NHL goal 49 seconds later.

Kings forward Milan Lucic said he was not surprised that Bernier came up with a solid effort.

"He played well," Lucic said. "You hear him talking in interviews lately and he was saying how he was feeling better and better and eventually it would come for him. It seemed like everything we put on net hit him and he was in the right spot and played a good game."

Captain Dustin Brown felt his the Kings needed to put more pressure on Bernier.

"I don't think we were making it hard enough on Bernie," Brown said. "He saw a lot of the pucks coming in, and I think we didn't get in on the forecheck well enough tonight. We had a lot of dump-ins and then we were forced to backcheck. When we're on our game that doesn't happen."

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