Bernier chased; Islanders cruise past Leafs

John Tavares scored his first goal in six games and had an assist to help the New York Islanders to a 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.

Jonathan Bernier knows he needs to be better in his next game, whenever that might be.

Bernier was beaten by the second shot of the game and struggled the rest of the night — giving up six goals on just 15 shots through two periods of play _ as the New York Islanders doubled up the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 to split a home-and-home set.

“I don’t think I was ready, I wasn’t good enough tonight,” said Bernier. “Wasn’t my game, I wasn’t good and I just have to be better next game.”

Bernier was pulled for the recently returned James Reimer to start the third period. Toronto plays the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Reimer is expected to start. If he shows he’s fully recovered from his groin injury, it could mean a long spell on the bench for the struggling Bernier.

The 27-year-old goaltender, who has had difficulty coming up big when needed this year, highlighted New York’s third goal as a missed opportunity to keep his team in the game.

After taking a pass from Nick Leddy at Toronto’s blue line, Frans Nielsen blew by a flat-footed Dion Phaneuf and beat Bernier five-hole with a backhand at 17:45 of the first to make it 3-1 Islanders.

“I wasn’t able to make the big save, especially in the first on the breakaway and that could have changed the game,” said Bernier.

Bernier is 3-10-3 this season and in the 2015 calendar year has gone 9-30-7 with a 3.16 goals-against average and .898 save percentage.

Brock Nelson, John Tavares, Nikolay Kulemin, Matt Martin and Anders Lee also scored for the Islanders (20-12-5) while Thomas Greiss turned aside 30-of-33 shots for the win.

Brad Boyes, Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and Shawn Matthias had goals for the Maple Leafs (13-15-7), who beat New York 3-1 on Sunday at Barclays Center.

Reimer, who made his first appearance in net since missing seven games, made six saves in relief of Bernier.

Leafs coach Mike Babcock thought about turning to Reimer earlier in the game, but stayed cautious because he didn’t want to send in a cold goalie with what he considered terrible ice conditions.

“The ice was so bad tonight, nothing like we’ve ever seen,” said Babcock. “I was scared of his groin. I went to him in between (periods) to make sure. You wanna give him time to warm up….that’s what the thought process was.”

Nelson put New York ahead 1-0 when he cut to the middle of the slot and beat Bernier with a low wrist shot two minutes into the game.

The Islanders’ lead didn’t last long, as Boyes scored 39 seconds later when he picked up a rebound at the top of the crease and put it past a sprawling Greiss.

New York restored its advantage when Josh Bailey put a slap-pass towards the front of the net that an open Tavares re-directed over Bernier’s blocker at 11:51. It was just the fourth shot Bernier had faced up to that point.

“I just need to produce,” said Tavares, who entered the night with just one goal in his last 10 games. “Have to find a way to get the puck in the net, whether its me, my opportunities or creating more for my linemates.”

The Leafs outshot the Islanders 12-7 in the opening 20 minutes, but allowed three first-period goals for the first time all season.

Toronto started the second period on the power play and Joffrey Lupul had two great chances to score, but couldn’t convert either _ putting one shot wide and another into the pads of Greiss.

Parenteau cut New York’s lead in half with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle that beat Greiss low blocker side at 10:57.

Any chance for momentum was halted, however, when Bernier gave the puck away behind his net and Kulemin was gifted an open cage to make it 4-2 only 28 seconds later.

“I tried to make a by-pass pass in the corner and (Nielsen) got it,” said Bernier about the miscue.

Bernier was given a subtle cheer from the home crowd when he stopped New York’s 13th shot of the game, but he was beaten on the 14th by Martin with less than two minutes to play in the second.

Making matters worse for the struggling netminder, Lee also beat Bernier with his club’s very next chance to make it 6-2 with 39 seconds to play in the period.

Babcock challenged the goal for goalie interference, but couldn’t get it overturned and lost his time out in the process.

Matthias added a late goal for Toronto, beating Greiss glove side from the slot at the 16-minute mark of the third.

“I thought we were more than ready to play,” said Babcock, who refused to place the blame on Bernier. “I don’t think our forwards did much to slow (New York) down through the neutral zone, we didn’t play as good as we should have.

“We knew that they were going to be better after last game, they dug in harder and we didn’t respond.”

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.