The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping that their success against Western Conference teams is a continued trend in 2016.
Peter Holland’s sixth goal of the season on the power play broke a third period tie and Jonathan Bernier stopped 39 shots as the Maple Leafs opened the new year with a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Michael Grabner, into an empty net, rounded out the attack for Toronto (15-15-7). It was the first regulation home win for the Maple Leafs over St. Louis since 1998.
“It’s got to be up there in the top five of the season,” Holland said of Toronto’s performance. “We had a couple lapses but, for the most part, we did our job and Bernier was there when we needed him.”
The win was Toronto’s second over the Blues this season. The Maple Leafs have also beaten top Western Conference teams such as the Los Angeles Kings and the Dallas Stars earlier this year.
Toronto begins a three-game Western road trip on Wednesday that includes a game against the Pacific Division-leading Kings.
“We seem to have had some success against Western Conference opponents and we definitely want to keep that rolling now that we head out to their neck of the woods,” Holland said.
“We feel like we’re playing a really good brand of hockey right now and we know we’re going to be competitive every night if we play the way we’re supposed to play.”
Holland got the winner at 3:15 of the third with Kyle Brodziak in the penalty box for cross-checking. Holland had the time and space on the right wing to pick his spot and, with a little help from a Leo Komarov screen, found an opening in the corner above Allen’s left shoulder.
After a scoreless first period, Tarasenko opened the scoring at 8:28 of the second with the Blues on the power play. He one-timed a cross-ice pass from David Backes that beat Bernier over his left shoulder.
That lead only lasted five seconds, with van Riemsdyk evening the game at 1-1. St. Louis defenceman Alex Pietrangelo didn’t control the puck well off the faceoff and van Riemsdyk picked up the loose puck and unleashed a low shot that fooled Allen as the puck kicked up off his pads and into the roof of the net.
“Bad goal,” Allen said.
When asked if he was surprised by the shot, Allen simply replied: “No, terrible goal.”
Kadri’s goal came with just under six minutes remaining in the third when he raced onto a pass from Grabner. His initial tip-in attempt was saved but he converted on the second attempt.
“That was a great game. I thought both teams played in their system and we stuck with it and scored some big goals,” said Bernier, who’s impressed in his last two starts as the Leafs have won back-to-back games.
“I thought we did a great job keeping them on the outside and at the end, they had a few chances but on the whole night I think we played unbelievably.”
Notes: St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock remains on 198 wins as coach of the Blues. He’s looking to become the second coach in team history to reach 200. Announced attendance at Air Canada Centre was 19,229.