NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Another game against Nashville, another win for Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier made 36 saves and Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs past the Predators 4-0 on Thursday night.
James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul also scored for the Maple Leafs, who have won four of five this season. Nashville has lost three of four.
“I don’t think we’re any different than any other team in the league,” Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. “To have success, your goalie’s got to give you a chance, it’s as simple as that. The one thing that Bernie did tonight, he stood tall in the nets and he didn’t give up a lot of second opportunities.”
Bernier extended his domination of Nashville, improving his career record against the Predators to 8-1. He stopped eight shots in the first period, 17 in the second and 11 in the third for his first shutout this season and the seventh of his career.
“I guess I feel pretty good playing against that team,” Bernier said. “It’s just a matter of luck a little bit, and guys are playing well in front of me.”
After a scoreless opening period, Kessel scored the first goal at 13:41 of the second.
Following a faceoff in the Nashville zone, the puck went below the goal line on the right side. Van Riemsdyk quickly grabbed it and whipped a backhand pass to Kessel in the low slot, where he one-timed the puck by goalie Pekka Rinne.
It was Kessel’s second goal of the season. He signed a $64 million, eight-year contract extension just before the start of the season.
Moments before the end of the second period, Kessel’s shot hit Rinne up high and the rebound landed just to the right of the Nashville net. Rinne squatted down to cover it, but van Riemsdyk took the puck before Rinne could get his glove on it and carried it around to the opposite side where he slid it into the open net.
“I just tried to get my stick in there. I don’t think he saw me coming,” van Riemsdyk said. “I was able to poke it out and I think that’s where the shorter nets come into play. So I think if you ask my opinion on them now, I think they are a pretty good part of the game.”
The goal came with 9 seconds remaining in the period.
“The real killer was the second goal,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. “With 9 seconds to go, they score. If we get through that period 1-0, I think we might get a point.”
Late in the game, Nashville forward Mike Fisher was assessed a major for boarding and a game misconduct after hitting former Predators defenceman Cody Franson into the boards by the Toronto bench. Franson left a pool of blood on the ice and did not return.
“It was just a hockey play,” Fisher said. “First of all, hopefully he’s OK. I felt bad he got hurt, but it was just a play where we kind of went into the glass. There was obviously no intent at all and very surprised to get a penalty. I didn’t feel like it was a penalty. It cost the team, which is unfortunate. Obviously I was pretty fired up after they called it.”
Bozak and Lupul scored on the ensuing power play.
After the game, Carlyle said Franson’s visor cut the bridge of his nose, but there was no further update.
NOTES: It was only the fifth time the Maple Leafs played in Nashville, the fewest of any NHL team. … LW Josh Leivo and LW David Broll made their NHL debuts. Broll fought with Nashville C Matt Hendricks in the second period. … Nashville has allowed the first goal in all four games this season. It was the 15th anniversary of the first game in Predators history.