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Bernier solid in goal as Leafs down Ducks 6-2 for sixth straight victory

12/16/2014 10:31 EST | Updated 02/15/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Jonathan Bernier extended one streak Tuesday night while halting another.

Bernier stopped 40 shots in leading Toronto to a 6-2 decision over Anaheim before an energetic Air Canada Centre gathering of 18,932. Bernier anchored the Maple Leafs' sixth straight victory and was instrumental in halting the Ducks' eight-game win streak.

Toronto also handed Anaheim (21-7-5, Western Conference-leading 47 points) its first loss in eight games this month (7-1). The Leafs' victory came after a 4-3 victory over the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, two wins Bernier said give his club a definite confidence boost.

"We've been on a good stretch but I think the last two that we've played were a great challenge for us," Bernier said. "(They're) big teams, they're strong, have a good forecheck, they have skill so I thought that was a great step forward for our team and our confidence."

Toronto (19-9-3, 41 points) improved to 14-7-0 at home by outscoring Anaheim 4-1 in the third period. More impressive, the Leafs are 10-1-1 since a lopsided 9-2 home loss to Nashville on Nov. 18.

"I think that was an event for our group," Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's embarrassing, it's one of the things that hopefully crystalized our group and I think it has done that."

However, Carlyle feels the Leafs haven't been at their best the last two games.

"I think we were very opportunistic tonight," he said. "I feel we are slipping the last couple of games.

"We have to get back to that more energetic, more stop-and-go, more straight-line hockey. We do have some players who continue to do it but I think as a whole we feel our game has slipped."

And Carlyle said Bernier's play, particularly the first two periods, allowed Toronto to secure the win.

"He made some big stops for us early in the hockey game," Carlyle said. "He was the main reason we got ourselves in a position to win the hockey game."

But Toronto did show a killer instinct in the third, with Phil Kessel scoring two of the Leafs' four goals in the period.

David Booth scored his first of the season unassisted at 4:37 before Nazem Kadri put away his ninth at 5:28 to put Toronto ahead 4-1. Anaheim starter Frederik Andersen was replaced by backup Ilya Bryzgalov following Kadri's goal.

Ryan Kesler pulled Anaheim to within 4-2 with his 11th of the season at 8:35. But Kessel cemented the win on the power play at 15:23 before adding his 17th goal at 18:17.

"For 50 minutes I thought we played really hard and played good, then it got silly," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They're very opportunistic so if you give them those opportunities when you lose focus they're going to put pucks in the net."

Boudreau also had praise for Bernier.

"He was good," he said. "He made a lot of great saves but we missed a lot of really open chances where we didn't hit the net.

"The big difference was they hit the net on a lot of those great chances and we missed the net."

Tyler Bozak and Joffrey Lupul also scored for Toronto.

Sami Vatanen had the other goal for Anaheim, which still sports an impressive 11-4-2 road record.

Anaheim outshot Toronto 17-11 in the first and had the two power-play chances in the period but the Leafs had the only goal. Bozak scored his 12th of the season at 15:12, poking a loose puck in front past Andersen.

The Ducks held a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal in the second, but still trailed 2-1. Lupul put Toronto ahead 2-0 at 1:31 with his seventh of the season, his innocent-looking one-time from near the boards eluding Andersen.

Vatanen's short-handed goal at 13:13 cut Toronto's lead to 2-1. Vatanen scored his ninth of the season when his wrist shot from the faceoff circle beat Bernier.

Toronto improved to 14-0 when scoring first and 13-0 after leading through two periods. The Leafs also haven't lost to Anaheim since Oct. 21 2008, a 3-2 shootout decision.

Both teams are on the road Thursday. Toronto visits the Carolina Hurricanes while Anaheim is in Montreal for the fourth game of its five-game road trip.

NOTES — James van Riemsdyk and Kessel both drew assists on Bozak's first-period goal, extending their points streaks to five games . . . Leafs Lupul, Peter Holland, Daniel Winnik and Stephane Robidas are all former Ducks. Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle was behind Anaheim's bench for seven seasons, guiding the club to the Stanley Cup title in 2006-'07 . . . Toronto defenceman Jake Gardiner was a first-round pick of Anaheim (No. 17) in '08 but never played a regular-season game before being dealt to the Leafs . . . Toronto came into this contest averaging a league-best 3.37 goals per game . . . Boudreau appeared in his 550th career NHL contest.

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