TORONTO — Craig Smith netted two goals, and rookie defenseman Seth Jones and Matt Cullen also scored to give the Nashville Predators a 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier, who shut out the Predators last month and has dominated them during his NHL career, made 24 saves. Nashville rookie Marek Mazanec stopped 24 shots for the victory. Peter Holland scored his first goal with the Maple Leafs since being acquired from the Anaheim Ducks.
Toronto was outshot 28-26 after jumping out to an 11-5 edge. The Maple Leafs couldn’t put together much sustained attack time or opportunistic offense after Holland scored 5:48 in.
Nazem Kadri scored his sixth of the season with 4:32 remaining to bring the Maple Leafs within 4-2.
The Predators played their ninth road game in 10 contests, but the Maple Leafs (13-8-1) couldn’t take advantage of a tired opponent. Instead,
early in the second period, Mason Raymond clipped Predators center David Legwand with a high-stick, and Jones scored his third goal of the season on the ensuing power play. Jones’ shot from the blue line deflected off Toronto forward Jay McClement’s stick and past Bernier at 2:01.
Shoddy defense led to Cullen’s goal at 11:14 of the second. Cullen whiffed on his original attempt but had no trouble recovering the puck and scoring while Paul Ranger and the Maple Leafs stood around watching.
A boarding penalty to James van Riemsdyk a few minutes later dug the Leafs further into a hole, as Smith took advantage of sloppy play around the net for a power-play goal at 16:25 to make it 3-1.
Smith’s second goal at 4:32 of the third surprised Bernier, who had been 8-1 with a 1.67-goals-against average and a .941 save percentage against Nashville.
Well after the game was decided, Kadri scored in his return from a three-game suspension for elbowing Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom in the head.