SPORTS

After trading Clarkson, Maple Leafs beat Flyers thanks to Bernier

02/26/2015 10:18 EST | Updated 04/28/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - In their first game without the traded David Clarkson, the Toronto Maple Leafs got a stellar performance from Jonathan Bernier to beat the Philadelphia Flyers.

Bernier stopped 47 of the season-high 49 shots he faced in the 3-2 victory Thursday night at Air Canada Centre that came mere hours after the Leafs dealt Clarkson to the Columbus Blue Jackets for injured winger Nathan Horton.

"I'm just trying to do my job here," Bernier said. "That was a tough call before the game that we found out Clarky left. But at the same time when you're not doing so well, there's going to be big changes."

As Monday's trade deadline approaches more changes could be coming. No one is untouchable, save perhaps for young defenceman Morgan Rielly.

"I think there's never anyone that's untradeable," said captain Dion Phaneuf, who scored in his return from a month-long absence with a hand injury. "Anyone can be moved."

General manager Dave Nonis showed that by trading Clarkson and his seemingly untradeable contract that could have weighed the Leafs down for five more years.

If Bernier plays consistently like he did in beating the Flyers, the 26-year-old goaltender could be darn close to untouchable. Bernier is a restricted free agent this summer and with the Leafs (25-31-5) set to rebuild it's unclear how he fits into their long-term plans.

Bernier has not played as well in his second season in Toronto as he did in 2013-14, when he had a .923 save percentage. Playing the most games of his young NHL career, Bernier was derailed by injuries late and the Leafs collapsed to miss the playoffs.

Recently, the Laval, Que., native has shown flashes of being an elite starter, most notably a 31-save shootout loss in Montreal on Valentine's Day and then Thursday night's gem against Philadelphia (26-25-11).

"Your goalie's got to be your best player and sometimes it just has to happen," interim coach Peter Horachek said. "A lot of the shots he made easy saves and a lot of them he made amazing saves. He was the No. 1 star for us, for sure."

The Flyers, who blew another opportunity to pick up points as they remain on the edge of the playoff race, outshot the Leafs 49-17. But Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak scored on point-blank rushes to chase starting goaltender Rob Zepp. Steve Mason, fresh off a two-week absence for knee surgery, replaced Zepp after two goals on eight shots.

"It breaks the momentum," defenceman Mark Streit said. "Even when we were down by two, I had a really good feeling because I knew eventually we were going to get a goal and get on a roll and we were going to be able to get at least a point and come back. We just came up short a little bit."

The Flyers dominated play and got third-period power-play goals from Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn to make it interesting. But they still lost their second straight game to a team in the Connor McDavid derby, not playoff contention.

"We feel like we deserve better, but at the same time those games are going to happen," Schenn said. "Some nights you are going to play great and get no points and other nights you may play poorly and get points."

Notes — St. Louis Blues assistant GM Martin Brodeur was among those in attendance for the Leafs-Flyers game. ... Zach Sill, acquired Wednesday from the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Daniel Winnik trade, made his Leafs debut.

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