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article imageKadri, Bernier steal Lightning's Thunder as Leafs beat Tampa Bay Special

By Dave Pitman     Jan 28, 2014 in Sports
Toronto - Returning home from a four-game road trip full of highs and lows, the Maple Leafs bounced back Tuesday night as they snapped the Tampa Bay Lightning's modest three-game win streak at the Air Canada Centre.
The game was electric, as a lot of young talent is boasted by both the Leafs and Lightning rosters. Tonight's game showcased a plethora of highlight worthy material, most notably from Nazem Kadri and Jonathan Bernier as both up-and-coming young players brought the crowd of the ACC to their feet. Kadri scored twice, including a beautiful 2nd period goal where he put his hands on display before scoring backhand over Ben Bishop's pad. Bernier made an incredible late third period save on one of the NHL's most productive players in Martin St. Louis, keeping the Leafs on top 3-2.
"I think If you ask Naz, he probably wants the [Highlight of the Night], but that save was unbelievable," Phaneuf told media post game, "When Marty St. Louis gets stopped like that, it's a huge game changing save."
Both plays seemed to impress Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Cooper as well, especially the skill involved in the goal from Kadri.
"He did that at a high speed… Not a lot of players can do that."
Tuesday's meeting was the first of the season for the hockey clubs. The Leafs are 1-2-0 against Tampa Bay in their last three games dating back to last season and are 45-20-2-5 all time. Both the Leafs and Lightning have identical 6-3-1 records over their last 10 games, Tampa However, entered with a three game winning streak.
Ben Bishop got the call for Tampa Bay. Bishop is having his best season of his young career so far, ranking first in the NHL in wins, 2nd in the NHL in shutouts, and 3rd in the NHL in both Save Percentage and Goals Against Average. While playing against Toronto, he's 2-3-0 with a 3.24 goals against average in five career games. On the opposite end, Jonathan Bernier got the call for the Leafs, this being his first career start against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning kicked off a four game road trip starting in Toronto tonight before falling to the Maple Leafs. They had won nine of their last 11 games on the road leading up to Tuesday. Martin St. Louis has been lights out for the Lightning, especially recently, as he rode a 10-game point streak. The streak was the NHL's longest active streak, but would end at the hands of Jonathan Bernier's stellar play.
Bernier had to be sharp early on as Tampa Bay came at him with incredible speed. Despite being on the penalty kill three times in the first period, Tampa Bay out-shot the Maple Leafs 11-9. The Maple Leafs failed to capitalize on special teams on all three first period Power-Play opportunities as the first frame ended in a 0-0 tie.
The second period would break the offensive stalemate. Driving the centre lane, Nazem Kadri opened the scoring on what looked like a harmless shot which deflected off Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman. Bernier stayed sharp as he was peppered with shots but turned them aside to keep the Leafs ahead. Midway through the period, Kadri would strike again on a beautiful play off the stick of Joffrey Lupul. Lupul found Kadri out front where he showcased the dangles he's come to have given himself a reputation for before backhanding his 14th of the year over the pad of Ben Bishop. The celebration, however, would be short-lived as Matthew Carle roofed one stick side on Bernier shortly after. Just five minutes later, with the puck loose in a scrum in front of the net, Mark Barberio tied the game at 2-2. Despite letting two in, Jonathan Bernier was incredible for the Maple Leafs, as they were out-shot 29-16 at the end of the frame.
Killing a penalty right at the top of the third period pushed the momentum into Toronto's favour. Pouring on the pressure, Phil Kessel broke loose on a breakaway but was unable to score on a rare miss wide of the net. Visibly upset with himself, Kessel would make up for the offensive lapse soon after, finding James van Riemsdyk out front as he blasted the eventual game winner by Bishop on a goal that was originally waved off. The goal was a milestone for van Riemsdyk; His 41st point of the season was a new career high in points and his 21st goal matched his career best as well. The focus, however, would soon shift to Bernier who made 40 saves on the night, but none bigger than a late third period chance from Martin St. Louis. Receiving the pass across the net, St. Louis had an open look to tie the game but Bernier made an acrobatic slide across the crease to make the save off his high pad. The save left St. Louis staring at the Leafs net minder in disbelief before the final buzzer sounded snapping Tampa Bay's modest three game win streak.
James van Riemsdyk was quick to shift the focus from his milestone to the play of his teammates Tuesday night, specifically Jonathan Bernier.
"Phil slid it over to me and it was laid out on a platter for me," said van Riemsdyk, leaning out of his stall post game before looking over to Jonathan Bernier, "He was incredible all night, making post to post saves and playing confidently."
Nazem Kadri, while scoring the Leafs first two goals, was also quick to praise the play of his team. When asked of the chemistry on his line, Kadri credited his line-mates abilities.
"Lupes and Kule seemed to find me no problem out there today and I wish I could have had a couple more, but we'll save them for another day."
It was a big two points for the Maple Leafs. With the win, They now sit just five points back of Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division. Montréal trails Toronto by one point for third place as they shut-out the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 Tuesday night. The Maple Leafs play host to the Florida Panthers on Thursday as they continue their quest to post-season action for the second consecutive year. Dave Bolland continues to skate with the team as he looks to return to action in the near future. Bolland missed his 40th game of the 2013-14 season in tonight's win.
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