Published April 05, 2014
(SportsNetwork.com) - An uphill battle for a postseason spot just turned into a sharp incline for the Toronto Maple Leafs following word that goaltender Jonathan Bernier will miss at least three next three weeks of action.
The Maple Leafs will need to make the playoffs to give Bernier a chance to return this season and they'll look to record a third straight victory on Saturday night versus the Winnipeg Jets.
Toronto has won back-to-back games following an 0-8-0 skid that dealt a near- fatal blow to its playoff chances. Even with the two wins, the Maple Leafs are still one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, though, has four games left on its schedule compared to five for Columbus. The Blue Jackets are idle on Saturday.
Bernier won't play in any of those four games after suffering a MCL sprain in Thursday's 4-3 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins. He was hurt near the midway point of the third period after Toronto defenseman Paul Ranger checked Boston's Patrice Bergeron into Bernier.
Ranger actually picked up an interference penalty on the play and James Reimer came in to stop 10-of-11 shots faced after Bernier posted 25 stops.
Boston scored twice in the third period to erase a 3-1 deficit, but failed to score on a power play that extended into overtime and Toronto's Nazem Kadri netted a power-play goal of his own 2:51 into the bonus frame.
With Boston's Torey Krug in the box for holding, Cody Franson fed the disc from the left point to the low left side, where Kadri roofed a shot over Chad Johnson.
"We're alive, but again there's a lot of things that have to go our way," Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "All we're going to focus on is what we can control. We can control our effort and our commitment to our team game. That's what we're going to focus on."
Ranger, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak each scored once for the Leafs, with van Riemsdyk reaching 30 goals in a season for the first time in his career.
Reimer was credited with the win, his first since March 13 as he snapped a personal five-game slide. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.87 goals against average in his career versus the Jets.
Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul did not play on Thursday due to a lower-body injury and is doubtful for tonight.
The Jets were eliminated from the playoff race on Thursday with a 4-2 setback to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Winnipeg was returning home following a 2-2-1 road trip.
Olli Jokinen and Zach Redmond scored for the Jets, while Ondrej Pavelec gave up four goals on 21 shots.
"We missed the net 18 times. That, to me, was the difference," Winnipeg head coach Paul Maurice said. "We didn't get enough pucks to the net or on the net and create some of the chaos that we needed to create."
Winnipeg, a franchise that was known as the Atlanta Thrashers prior to the 2011-12 campaign, will miss the playoffs for a seventh straight season.
Pavelec is 8-4-2 with a 3.28 GAA in his career versus the Maple Leafs, who have lost three straight and five of their last seven versus the Jets.
Winnipeg picked up a 5-4 overtime victory at home over the Leafs on Jan. 25 and snapped a three-game slide in Toronto with a 5-4 shootout triumph in its last trip there on March 16 of last year.