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Coyotes score soft goals on Bernier as Maple Leafs lose eighth straight

01/29/2015 10:18 EST | Updated 03/31/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Jonathan Bernier lost sight of a harmless shot Oliver Ekman-Larsson let fly from the neutral zone and missed another that Martin Hanzal banked off his back from the goal-line. With that, the Toronto Maple Leafs' chances of ending their losing streak faded away.

Bernier allowed two soft goals, including a potentially unforgettable floater from beyond the red-line, as the Leafs lost their eighth straight game, 3-1 to the Arizona Coyotes Thursday night at Air Canada Centre.

"Both goals I think were bad goals, one from the goal-line, one from their blue-line," interim coach Peter Horachek said. "You don't try to understand it totally. I think he rebounded right back and played decently after that, but I don't really know how to explain it."

Bernier was strong for the game's first 40 minutes and finished with 42 saves on 45 shots. But Ekman-Larsson's fluky short-handed goal five seconds into the third period derailed him.

Leafs fans who watched their team fall to 0-7-1 in the past eight games wasted little time jeering Bernier for his mistake. He was on the receiving end of Bronx cheers for stopping an innocent clear not long after Ekman-Larsson's 100-plus-foot lob beat him.

"It's tough to stay in, especially when I thought I was playing pretty good and the fans get on you," Bernier said. "It gets frustrating, but I've got to be stronger mentally and stay in it."

The Leafs wouldn't have led going into the third period had it not been for Bernier, who made a crucial right-pad save on Hanzal in the second to make Phil Kessel's first even-strength goal since Dec. 16 stand up.

"He played real good tonight, so it's not his fault at all," said Kessel, whose goal was his 20th of the season. "He made some great saves in there."

But when Bernier lost the puck in the stands on Ekman-Larsson's 100-plus-foot goal, it deflated a team that was looking for any kind of positivity.

"You've got to say, 'That's his job and he's got to have that,' and I'm sure he wishes he could have it back and usually does," Horachek said. "You've got to row with that and move on."

Ekman-Larsson's goal was the fastest short-handed goal to start a period in NHL history. It also tied the fastest of any kind to start a period in Coyotes franchise history, matching Doug Smail of the first Winnipeg Jets in 1981.

"We planned that all the way," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said with a smile. "When you get a break like that, it's good to take advantage of it."

The all-star defenceman said he had never scored a goal like that but added there's "a first time for everything."

As much as Bernier giving up that goal was shades of Vesa Toskala, the real back-breaker came 3:42 later when Hanzal beat him by shooting off the "5" on the back of his sweater to give Arizona (17-25-6) the lead. The Leafs (22-24-4) couldn't bounce back to score again, and then Sam Gagner scored on a deflection at 16:30 to seal the end of the Coyotes' skid at seven games.

"It's about time we got a bounce," said goaltender Mike Smith, who stopped 24 of 25 shots for the victory. "I thought we did a lot of good things and got rewarded for it."

The Leafs fell to 0-7-1 in their past eight games and 1-8-1 since Horachek took over for Randy Carlyle. They've scored just 15 goals in those 10 games.

"We're finding ways not to win," Horachek said. "We've got to find ways to win now."

Their next challenge is trying to bounce back Saturday at the Philadelphia Flyers.

"You deal with these negative things like having those couple fluky goals go in, and you've got to move on to the next day," Horachek said. "It's got to be a whole new day because you can't put your best foot forward if you're pouting or feeling sorry for yourself or making excuses. You've just got to go back to work."

Notes — Joffrey Lupul played just over 10 minutes in his first game back from missing 11 with a lower-body injury. ... Arizona's 45 shots were its most this season. ... The Coyotes visit the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night.

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