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Leafs, Bernier blank Predators

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- How does Jonathan Bernier explain his chokehold on the Nashville Predators?

"I guess I just feel good playing against that team," the Toronto Maple Leafs goalie said. "It's just a matter of luck a little bit and guys playing well in front of me."

Bernier improved to 8-1-0 in his career against Nashville, turning away 36 shots for his seventh career shutout Thursday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs posted a 4-0 win at Bridgestone Arena.

Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings on June 23 for right wing Matt Frattin, goalie Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick, Bernier entered play with a 1.17 goals-against average and a .962 save percentage. He did no harm to either number Thursday despite a heavy workload.

The Predators (1-3-0) peppered him with 17 shots during the second period and kept coming for most of the third, but Bernier was equal to every challenge. His best save might have come early in the third as he denied a point-blank wrist shot from Kevin Klein.

Bernier used his chest well all night, blocking numerous shots with it and preventing Nashville from jumping on rebounds with the help of his defensemen.

"The way I like to play is to take away the far side," he said. "That makes a big difference. Then I can take away the short side with my chest."

Last year's starter, James Reimer, has been glued to the bench for most of the past four games since winning the season opener in Montreal. Bernier allowed just three goals in his four appearances.

However, second-year coach Randy Carlyle isn't quite ready to anoint Bernier his No. 1 guy.

"This is what, the fourth or fifth game of the year?" Carlyle said.

Still, Bernier's effort kept Toronto (4-1-0) unbeaten on the road in three games and continued the Predators' early-season offensive woes. Nashville was shut out for the first time, and it has a total of six goals in four games.

The Predators didn't lack for chances against the Leafs. Nashville owned a 20-8 advantage in shots at one point in the second period, generating good opportunities by dint of continual puck possession.

"We had some grade-A chances, but I think we ran into a hot goaltender again," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.

Meanwhile, the Leafs finally got on the board at 13:41 of the second when Phil Kessel sailed unfettered into the high slot and snapped James van Riemsdyk's pass past Pekka Rinne for his second goal.

Van Riemsdyk made it 2-0 at 19:51, stealing the puck from Rinne as the Nashville goalie was attempting to freeze it for a faceoff. The Toronto left wing then wrapped a backhander into the net for his third goal.

"You've got to capitalize on your chances, and I think that's what we did," van Riemsdyk said.

The Maple Leafs sealed the win with two power-play goals after Mike Fisher was assessed a boarding major and game misconduct at 13:18 of the third for his hit on Cody Franson.

Tyler Bozak scored his second of the season at 16:18 as his centering pass for van Riemsdyk caromed off the skate of Nashville rookie Seth Jones. Joffrey Lupul tacked on his third at 16:59.

By that time, Bernier had the game wrapped up.

"We're just like any other team in the league," Carlyle said. "If we're going to have success, our goalie has to give us a chance."

Rinne finished with 22 saves.

NOTES: Toronto recalled D T.J. Brennan, LW David Broll and LW Josh Leivo from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, on Wednesday. Broll and Leivo both dressed Thursday, making them the 901st and 902nd players in club history. LW Jamie Devane and C Trevor Smith were sent down to the Marlies. ... Nashville welcomed the Maple Leafs to town for just the fifth time in its 15-year history. That's the fewest visits of any franchise to the Music City. ... Toronto C Jay McClement was back in action Thursday after missing Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche due to the birth of a son. ... D Roman Josi (concussion) and RW Viktor Stalberg (shoulder) were out of the Predators' lineup again, although Stalberg did skate with the team during Wednesday's practice.
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