It took until his last chance in 2015, but Jonathan Bernier finally turned in his greatest goaltending performance of the season.
“It was my best game this year. That’s for sure,” the Toronto Maple Leafs starter told Joey Vandetta on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday. “I felt like I was on my game from the get-go.”
A surprise starter in the second half of a back-to-back after James Reimer’s groin injury got to nagging him again, Bernier turned in a gem in a run-and-gun affair Wednesday night and backstopped Toronto to a 3-2 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bernier's 39 saves — 20 of which came in a wild second period — marked the most he's made since April 5. His standout showing came just 24 hours after his worst game, statistically, in a troubled season. On Tuesday, Bernier put up a miserable .600 save percentage and got chased by the New York Islanders 6-3.
“After a bad game, you gotta show up and work twice as hard," he said. "I just wanted to show some character and come back with a better effort than the night before."
So good was Bernier's effort that even Pittsburgh's Patric Hornqvist congratulated him after overtime:
Hornqvist commends Bernier after OT ends pic.twitter.com/EnX38TplG4
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 31, 2015
After going 0 for October/November, the goaltender has now won four of his last six starts. Though it was a blow to his ego, Bernier credits his 10-day AHL conditioning stint with the Marlies for restoring his mental approach. The demotion helped him zero in on the details of his game, which he believes is much better now.
“The biggest thing was to find the fun again,” Bernier said. “It was good for me to get away a bit.
“There’s no confidence issue now.”
Bernier and the Maple Leafs host the St. Louis Blues at Air Canada Centre on Saturday night.