Jonathan Bernier was excellent in unexpected action, and the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from a rough outing the night before.
Bernier made 39 saves, P.A. Parenteau and Peter Holland scored in the shootout and the Maple Leafs beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 on Wednesday night.
“I thought Bernier was real good,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. “He was mentally strong and he came out and played real well.”
Dion Phaneuf and Jake Gardiner both scored, and the Maple Leafs bounced back from a 6-3 home loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. Toronto was 0-6-2 in the second game of back-to-backs prior to this victory.
Bernier allowed all six goals on 15 shots against the Islanders before being lifted for James Reimer. Reimer was supposed to start against Pittsburgh, but he experienced tightness after getting his first action since missing seven games with a groin injury.
“I had an off-night last night, but I’ve been feeling pretty good,” Bernier said. “I just wanted to have a bounce-back game and I think that’s what we wanted as a group.”
Parenteau won it by beating Matt Murray to the glove side with a wrist shot.
David Perron scored for Pittsburgh in the shootout, but Bernier stopped Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang.
The Maple Leafs have at least one point in eight of their last nine games with six wins during that span.
Crosby scored his eighth and Chris Kunitz his fifth, and Murray made 34 saves for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins fell to 2-5-1 since hiring Mike Sullivan to replace Mike Johnston as head coach. Pittsburgh lost to the Maple Leafs for the first time in seven games and dropped their second straight overall.
“We know down the stretch it’s going to be tight,” Crosby said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work out in the end, but every point is important. Our desperation level has to be there every night now.”
Pittsburgh hit Bernier with 20 second-period shots but was stilled tied 2-2 after 40 minutes. Murray, meanwhile stopped three breakaways and several quality short-handed opportunities during a power play in the third period.
Evgeni Malkin hit the post to the right of Bernier on a late third-period power play.
“There were a lot of opportunities both ways,” Babcock said. “It was way more open than we’d like to play, but in the end we were able to get the two points.”
Letang returned after missing a game Sunday against Winnipeg. Letang has a history of head injuries and was placed in concussion protocol after leaving Saturday night following a hit from Minnesota Wild forward Jarret Stoll. He had missed the previous six games with an upper-body injury and nine of the prior 11.
Letang took a hard hit into the end boards from Leo Komarov, and the forward was assessed a boarding penalty on the play following a scrum behind the net. Letang briefly left the game, but later returned.
“I thought our guys played hard,” Sullivan said. “We pushed back. I thought our guys responded fine.”
The teams opened the game with first-period goals scored 1:34 apart.
Phaneuf sent a slap shot from the point past a screened Murray and Kunitz scored on the power play for Pittsburgh. Malkin started the play with a cross-ice pass to Crosby, who sent it to Kunitz for an easy tip-in at the far post.
The teams scored in a span of 3:32 early in the second period.
Toronto jumped in front 1:13 into the period when James van Riemsdyk’s harmless looking shot from the top of the circle deflected off Brian Dumoulin’s stick and Gardiner’s glove before going past Murray.
Crosby snapped a sharp wrist shot over Bernier’s glove and underneath the cross bar during a 2-on-1, tying the game soon after.
NOTES: Penguins’ goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is practicing and ‘making progress’ in his recovery from a concussion. He hasn’t played since Dec. 14. … The Maple Leafs recalled Mark Arcobello for Byron Froese, who sustained a lower-body injury on Tuesday. … Pittsburgh plays Thursday night at Detroit. Toronto hosts St. Louis before a three-game West Coast swing.