TAMPA, Fla. – The Toronto Maple Leafs are tightening the race for second place in the Atlantic Division.
Jonathan Bernier made 33 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-1 on Thursday night.
The second-place Lightning have a one-point lead over Toronto and Montreal, which beat Vancouver 5-2.
“The last week and a half (has been tough),” said Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, whose team has lost four of five. “I don’t mind where we are in the standings as of today. We kind of built a bulge in the standings, point-wise, and now we’ve lost some of it. But in saying that, I rather be where we are right now than where some other teams are.”
Mason Raymond, Jay McClement, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak scored for Toronto, which was coming of a 4-1 loss Tuesday night at Florida.
“We needed a response from our effort the other night, and we got it tonight,” Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “If you don’t have goaltending, you don’t have a starting point in the NHL. We’re not any different than any other hockey club. The goaltender is your last line of defence, and our guys have given us a chance for a better part of this year.”
The Maple Leafs are 10-2-1 over their last 13 games.
“We want to finish strong before the (Olympic) break with as many points as possible,” Bernier said.
Bernier had a number of strong saves early when Tampa Bay dominated the first half of the first period, and he made a glove save on J.T. Brown during the second.
“It didn’t look like we had it early, and once again Bernie was ready to play and kept us in it,” McClement said. “Then we were able to get our legs.”
Ondrej Palat had the lone goal for Tampa Bay. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop left after two periods with an upper-body injury and was replaced by Cedrick Desjardins, and centre Valtteri Filppula also left due to a lower-body injury. Desjardins is filling in for backup Anders Lindback, who is sidelined by a lower-body injury.
Both Bishop and Filppula will be evaluated Friday.
McClement made it 2-0 on an in-close backhander that eluded Desjardins at 2:19 of the third. After Desjardins make a glove save a couple of minutes later on Troy Bodie’s breakaway shot, the Maple Leafs turned an errant pass by the Lightning into a 3-0 advantage on van Riemsdyk’s point-blank goal at 8:10.
Bozak added an empty-net goal with 2:52 to play.
Palat ended Bernier’s shutout bid and cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 3-1 at 10:28 of the third.
There was a scrum between the teams with 1:42 remaining after a Toronto defender made contact with Brown, who ended up colliding with Bernier. Five players received penalties on the play.
Raymond opened the scoring 7:57 into the second when he skated in alone from the left wing boards and lifted a backhander over Bishop.
Bishop kept the Lightning within a goal when he stopped a shot during a breakaway by Bozak with 4 minutes left in the second.
The Maple Leafs, despite allowing eight of the first nine shots, outshot Tampa Bay 12-9 during a scoreless first period.
NOTES: Tampa Bay RW Martin St. Louis will replace injured Lightning C Steven Stamkos on Canada’s Olympic hockey team. Doctors ruled out Stamkos because he hasn’t recovered sufficiently from a broken right leg. … St. Louis has gone eight games without a goal since he tied a team record with four goals against St. Jose on Jan. 18. He had an assist Thursday. … Toronto C Nazem Kadri had his six-game points streak end.