CALGARY – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That was the prevailing sentiment from the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night, who in an increasingly familiar storyline, won 4-2 over the Calgary Flames despite being outshot by a wide margin.
James van Riemsdyk scored a pivotal short-handed goal and Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves as the Maple Leafs won their third in a row and increased their lead atop the Atlantic Division despite being outshot for the 11th game in a row.
“Right now, the way we’re playing, we’re winning and I think it’s hard for a team to change what we’re doing,” Bernier said. “We’re scoring some big goals, we’re getting some huge blocked shots, and some good ‘PK’ and a good ‘PP’ and that’s a huge thing for us.”
With Toronto playing on consecutive nights and the Flames having had three days off, the game started predictably with Calgary going to the attack immediately.
However, despite peppering Bernier for 15 shots, they trailed 2-0 after the first thanks to an opportunistic Leafs offence that connected twice on seven shots against Karri Ramo.
The key goal was scored by van Riemsdyk with four seconds remaining in the period.
“A couple games ago, I had a similar chance and I just tried getting over the blue-line and taking a wrister,” van Riemsdyk said. “This time, I saw we had a 2-on-2, there wasn’t much time, so I thought I’d try to kick it wide and Jay (McClement) made an unbelievable pass underneath the triangle of the defenceman and I just tried to throw it on net as quickly as possible.”
While Calgary drew back to within one goal on two occasions, Toronto did not relinquish the lead the rest of the night. It was Toronto’s first victory in Calgary since Dec. 27, 2002. The Leafs had lost their last seven visits to the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“(Bernier) was definitely huge for us. Our goaltending has been great all year and we seem to get outshot every night but our goalies give us a chance and we are getting some timely scoring and that’s been our recipe so far,” said van Riemsdyk.
Joffrey Lupul, Mason Raymond and Paul Ranger into an empty net—also shorthanded—rounded out the scoring for Toronto (10-4-0). The Leafs wrap up their three-game road trip through Western Canada on Saturday in Vancouver.
Matt Stajan and David Jones scored for Calgary (5-5-2), which lost at home in regulation for the first time (3-1-1). The Flames wrap up a three-game homestand Friday against Detroit.
“It’s just so frustrating right now. I thought we played a pretty good game from the top on down but that was one heck of a performance from Bernier,” said ex-Leaf Joe Colborne, who led all Flames forwards with a season-high 23:54 in ice time. “We were going to the net hard, we were creating secondary rebound chances and it was just one of those nights where things aren’t going to go in.”
Entering the night, the storyline was Phil Kessel, who had seven goals and 10 points in the previous four games to climb into a tie for second in the NHL’s scoring race behind Sidney Crosby.
However, the Flames—like they blanked Alex Ovechkin in their previous game—were also able to hold Kessel off the scoreboard.
“I felt that we had a good game. We are not very pleased with the result but I don’t know what we could have done more,” said Flames coach Bob Hartley. “Offensively we generated a lot. Our forechecking was good. Our puck decisions in the offensive zone were very good but Bernier basically stole the game away from us.”
As is always the case when Toronto visits Calgary, the Saddledome’s ‘sea of red’ turned into a mixture of blue and red with plenty of very vocal Toronto supporters on hand.
With Toronto clinging to a 2-1 lead, the visiting fans got something to cheer about 5:59 into the third period when David Clarkson took the puck to the net and while he was stopped, Raymond was right there to tuck in the rebound.
Scoring against Calgary is nothing new for Raymond, a native of nearby Cochrane, Alta. It’s his 11th career goal against the Flames, the most he’s scored against any team.
Calgary fought back to within one again when Jones deflected Kris Russell’s point shot at 14:39 of the third, but they could not get back to even despite getting a man advantage with three minutes left when Clarkson was sent off for boarding.
It was the second boarding penalty of the night for Toronto.
In the second, Carter Ashton sent Flames defenceman Derek Smith head first into the boards from behind, an incident that resulted in a fight between Ashton and Sean O’Brien, who jumped in to Smith’s defence.
Smith left the ice on his own, albeit slowly. He did not play the rest of the period but he returned in the third.
Notes: During the last 11 games, Toronto has been outshot 400-266… The assist was Clarkson’s first point with the Maple Leafs. Suspended by the NHL for the first 10 games of the season, he had been blanked in his first three games… C Mikael Backlund was a healthy scratch for the Flames with rugged winger Tim Jackman drawing in, in his place…. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf has yet to record a point against the Flames in five career games against his former club.