Game 32; 20-10-2
TORONTO — They entered Air Canada Centre on Saturday night and had arguably their worst effort of the season. After trailing 1-0 through the first 40 minutes, the Los Angeles Kings collapsed in the third, allowing four goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs rolled to a 5-0 victory, ending the silver-and-black’s road trip on a sour note.
The Kings entered this contest facing ex-netminder Jonathan Bernier who has had a tough year so far. Coming into Saturday, Bernier had a dismal 0-8-2 record to go along with a 3.46 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage. He had also spent some time in the AHL recently. On this night, though, No. 45 got the confidence boost he needed as he made 26 saves to not only earn his first win of the season, but also his first shutout. Plus, through the first two periods, while he may not have received much offensive support, Bernier did get enough of it.
At 5:31 of the first, the Leafs opened the scoring as Leo Komarov tipped in a Matt Hunwick shot for his 12th. Komarov beat Jhonas Enroth, who made a surprise start in goal for the Kings instead of Jonathan Quick.
It was a defensive battle for much of this game but in the third, the bottom fell out for Los Angeles.
Michael Grabner tipped in a Nazem Kadri shot at the 3:58 mark to put Toronto up by a pair. Then, Grabner got his second of the period as he beat Enroth at the 13:34 mark. Komarov scored 3:04 later and then, 49 seconds after that, Byron Froese tucked in his first-career NHL goal to give the home side a five-goal lead. That is how this one ended.
While this was the effort Jonathan Bernier needed, the Leafs did make it difficult for the silver-and-black to even challenge the netminder. Textbook defensive stops in addition to heads-up fore-checking led to the decisive win for the home team.
After a solid defensive outing in Montreal on Thursday, the Kings countered with one of their flattest efforts of the year — at least in the third. They now finish their six-game road trip at 3-2-1 as they finally head back to SoCal for a couple of days off.
Next up for the silver-and-black is one last game before the Christmas break. That will come on Tuesday night when they play host to the San Jose Sharks.