Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri celebrates his second goal against the Lightning.
John E. Sokolowski/John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo
After providing all the offense Toronto needed Tuesday night, Nazem Kadri and James van Riemsdyk both pointed to a big save by Jonathan Bernier as the key to the Maple Leafs’ victory.
Bernier went post-to-post with 3:18 remaining to rob Lightning captain Martin St. Louis as he one-timed a 2-on-1 feed from Victor Hedman. Thanks to that stop, the Maple Leafs held on for a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay.
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"Great save. Game-saving save," Kadri said. "Bernie’s been great for us all year and we almost expect him to make those kinds of saves since he’s done it so often. He’s a great goaltender, right up with the best, and he defiantly showed it there."
St. Louis, who had 14 goals and eight assists in 10 games coming in, was held pointless for the first time since he was left off the Canadian Olympic roster announced Jan. 7.
Bernier made 40 saves and improved to 7-1-2 when facing 40 or more shots this season.
"He was incredible the whole night making big post-to-post saves, playing really confidently. Again, we’re really lucky to have him," van Riemsdyk said.
Kadri scored twice and van Riemsdyk got the go-ahead goal late in the third period for Toronto, which avoided its fifth three-game skid of the season and halted the Lightning’s three-game winning streak.
Van Riemsdyk one-timed Phil Kessel’s feed past goalie Ben Bishop at 15:57 of the third for his 21st goal, matching the career high he set in 2010-11 with Philadelphia.
"We talked about that tonight, having a good stick and forcing their D to make a play under pressure," van Riemsdyk said. "(Tyler Bozak) was able to steal the puck from their guy, gave it to Phil and Phil slid it over to me."
Less than a minute later, St. Louis had an excellent chance for the equalizer. He was stopped by Bernier’s left pad.
"He had his blade to the inside so I just read it good and that one worked out for me," said Bernier, who made his first career start against the Lightning. "I don’t think we played our best game tonight. They had a lot of 2-on-1s, but we stuck with it and James scored a big goal and Naz had a great game, obviously."
Kadri scored twice in less than 8 minutes to give the Maple Leafs a 2-0 lead before the midway point of the second period, but Matthew Carle and Mark Barberio responded for Tampa Bay to tie it after 40 minutes.
Bishop made 23 saves for Tampa Bay.
"I thought we deserved better tonight," St. Louis said. "But we’ve been on the other side of the coin, too, where you don’t deserve a win but somehow you can get one. Tonight was one of those game that probably evened things out a little bit."
Kadri opened the scoring at 1:49 of the second period when his shot hit a Lightning player in front and fooled Bishop.
Then at 9:48, Kadri picked up his second of the night with a highlight-reel, forehand-backhand deke to beat Bishop for his 14th of the season. It was Kadri’s second multigoal game this season.
"I should’ve had a few more. I had some great chances," Kadri said. "We’ll save them for later."
Ondrej Palat hit Carle with a no-look feed at 13:13 of the second and the defenseman beat Bernier stick-side.
Barberio tied it 4 minutes later, putting home the rebound off a scramble in front of Bernier for his fourth of the season and fourth in four games.
Toronto had three straight first-period power plays, but had just three shots to show for it. The Lightning outshot the Maple Leafs 11-6 in the opening 20 minutes.
Tampa Bay had the best scoring chance of the first, short-handed, when J.T. Brown finished a 2-on-1 feed from Nate Thompson at 3:57, but Bernier was there to shut the door.
NOTES: Canadian Olympic hopeful and Lightning star Steven Stamkos missed his 36th game while recovering from a broken right leg. The Markham, Ont., native returned to practice Tuesday after missing Monday with discomfort. … Maple Leafs D Tim Gleason left late in the third period after being hit awkwardly into the boards by Lightning forward Teddy Purcell. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle called it a shoulder issue, adding he didn’t believe it was serious enough for Gleason to miss game time. … Maple Leafs forward David Bolland (ankle) participated in his first game-day skate since getting injured Nov. 2. Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser was a healthy scratch for the 10th straight game, and Paul Ranger was scratched for the 11th consecutive game. … Six-time Canadian Olympic medalist Clara Hughes dropped the ceremonial puck before the game.