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Bernier shuts out Stars to end Maple Leafs' slide

by Steve Hunt / NHL.com

DALLAS -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a win heading into the holiday break, two of their biggest names delivered.

Jonathan Bernier made 43 saves and James van Riemsdyk had a goal and two assists to help the Maple Leafs to a 4-0 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Tuesday.

Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist, and Phil Kessel contributed two assists for Toronto (20-12-3), which ended a three-game losing streak. Tyler Bozak and Mike Santorelli also scored for the Maple Leafs.

"It obviously is big," Bernier said. "Now we can breathe a little bit and look back at our December, pretty good month. And now we have a lot of away games; we've just got to rest a little bit for those few days and get back at it in Florida."

It was Bernier's second shutout of the season and ninth of his career.

"Losing streaks, you don't want them to linger, and that one was lingering long enough for us," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "Best Christmas present we could have given ourselves."

Dallas (14-14-5) had a four-game winning streak end with its first shutout loss of the season.

"I thought we pushed hard to get back in the game. You've got to take some chances, but we had more than enough chances," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "You've got to give Bernier a lot of credit. He was fabulous."

Toronto took the lead 55 seconds into the first period when Kadri flipped in a van Riemsdyk pass at the far post. Kadri found some space between Dallas' Alex Goligoski and Tyler Seguin before knocking in the puck for his 10th goal of the season.

"They got the first goal, and that gave them life," Stars center Jason Spezza said. "They came in here losing games. To get the first one like that gives them life."

Stars center Vernon Fiddler said, "We came out and we were flat. We gave up an odd-man rush off the start and we're down 1-0. That's not a good way to start. Then we took a penalty and gave up a power-play goal for them to go up 3-0. That's not a good spot to be in going into the third."

Midway through the first period, Toronto defenseman Stephane Robidas, who played 704 games in Dallas over nearly 11 seasons before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks in March, was honored with a video tribute in his first regular-season appearance here since the trade. Robidas received a standing ovation from the crowd and waved to them in appreciation.

Seguin nearly tied it at 14:45 of the first, but his wrist shot from the left circle instead hit the crossbar.

Toronto made it 2-0 6:21 into the second period when van Riemsdyk beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a backhand through the five-hole on a breakaway. Kadri's pass from the Toronto blue line sprung van Riemsdyk, and after some deft stickhandling, he beat Lehtonen for his 15th goal of the season.

Five seconds before the goal, Bernier made a glove save at the near post on a Seguin wrist shot from the right circle that then deflected off the post.

"We hit the post and they kind of swung it around, and they get a breakaway going the other way," Ruff said of the van Riemsdyk goal. "The game could have been 1-1 and it ended up being 2-0."

Bozak scored with Toronto on the power play at 10:30 of the second period. Dion Phaneuf's slap shot from the high slot hit Dallas defenseman Jordie Benn before deflecting off Bozak's stick.

"Yeah, it feels good to get a win before Christmas," Phaneuf said. "Everyone wants to go into the break feeling good. I thought that our team played a real solid road game. It started with [Bernier]. He made some extremely timely saves, some acrobatic saves that will be on the highlight reel, but he was a rock for us back there again."

Seguin hit his third post of the game with a wrist shot with 3:42 remaining in the period.

"We struggled putting the puck in the net," Spezza said. "[Seguin's] shooting lights out. He had five, six chances tonight. Those are usually in the net the way he's been shooting."

Dallas' power play was 0-for-4.

"We had a couple of real good looks but I thought we kept looking for the ideal shot. That ideal shot wasn't there," Ruff said. "We got caught standing still looking for something down low when there's nothing there. We need to spread them out and start all over. There were some real good looks, but sometimes when you have good zone time it runs out of gas."

Lehtonen made 22 saves for Dallas. He denied Kessel on a breakaway 2:30 into the third period and turned away a shot by Jake Gardiner at 4:21 with a diving save. Lehtonen left the ice with 4:44 remaining but returned after Santorelli scored into the empty net.

Toronto next plays Sunday at the Florida Panthers; Dallas is at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

"After a game like this, sometimes a mental break does a lot of good for a team, especially our team which has been a little up and down since I've been here (Nov. 21)," Stars defenseman Jason Demers said. "It's nice we have a game right away in St. Louis. That is going to be a tough game. We have to be ready for that. It's going to come pretty quick."

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