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Bernier's 44 saves lead Maple Leafs past Canucks

by Mike Brophy

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs remain perfect when scoring first.

Jake Gardiner opened the scoring and Jonathan Bernier made 44 saves to lead the Maple Leafs to a 5-2 win Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks at Air Canada Centre.

Toronto, which is 3-0-1 on its five-game homestand, is 11-0-0 when scoring first.

The Maple Leafs were looking to make amends after losing 5-3 against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. They were successful despite being outshot 46-28.

"You never want to lose back-to-back games," Bernier said. "We got an early lead and then we got into penalty trouble in the second and they had a few good scoring chances on the power play. I thought we played pretty good in the last 10 minutes of the third period."

Bernier said he was seeing the puck well, but was disappointed in his rebound control. He said his defensemen saved him a few times by clearing potential second chances away from the crease. He was pleased about the Maple Leafs' ability to respond after the loss to New Jersey.

"It's a step forward for us," Bernier said. "Obviously our home stand has been successful. We just have to keep working and continue to build momentum."

The Canucks were 0-for-6 on the power play thanks in large part to Bernier's brilliance.

"You can win games when your power play doesn't perform for you, but if you're in games like tonight and your penalty killing doesn't rise to the occasion, your chances of winning are almost nil," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "Our PK guys did a heck of a job and our goaltender was outstanding."

Vancouver pressed early, but Bernier held his ground and denied Radim Vrbata alone in the slot at 8:18 and then stopped Alexander Edler from in tight at 9:52.

After the morning skate, Carlyle said he wanted Gardiner to start joining the rush more often and that is exactly what he did to help give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 16:32. The swift-skating defenseman carried the puck from his own zone into the Vancouver end, stopped dead in his tracks and when he was unable to find a teammate, snapped a 30-foot shot on goal that Canucks goalie Ryan Miller stopped. The rebound was accidentally swatted into the net by Vancouver defenseman Yannick Weber and gave Gardiner his second goal of the season.

Thirty-five seconds later, Richard Panik got the puck in a good shooting position on his forehand in the slot. Instead of shooting right away, though, Panik switched to his backhand and slid the puck along to ice and caught Miller sliding out of the net to make it 2-0.

Toronto center Peter Holland scored his sixth of the season at 5:39 of the second period when he collected a rebound in front of the net and beat Miller with a wrist shot to the far corner. Less than two minutes later, Holland set up Joffrey Lupul in the slot and scored with a shot off the inside of the far post.

The Canucks pulled Miller after Toronto's fourth goal, replacing him with Eddie Lack.

Daniel Sedin got the Canucks on the scoreboard during a 4-on-4 situation with his seventh goal of the season when he stuffed his own rebound past Bernier at 15:21.

Christopher Tanev pulled the Canucks within a two goals at 8:45 of the third period when he took a pass at the side of the net and tipped a shot past Bernier for his first goal of the season.

Toronto right wing David Clarkson iced it for the Maple Leafs with an empty-net goal at 17:39, his eighth of the season.

"It felt like we could've won this game," Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said. "Even down 4-0, I thought we created enough chances to come back in the game. We hit a few posts and weren't able to score more than two."

Miller was not pleased with his effort, but gave a nod to his opponent at the other end.

"I just didn't make the saves the guys needed," Miller said. "[Bernier] played well. He was steady and saw the puck. A couple posts on the power play and maybe it's a little different game towards the end of the third. But he played well."

Canucks left wing Shawn Matthias left the game at 16:50 of the second when he was struck by Toronto defenseman Stephane Robidas.

The Maple Leafs (14-9-0) host the Calgary Flames on Tuesday; the Canucks (18-8-1) visit the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

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