Bernier’s third straight shutout sees Marlies overcome Comets

Jonathan Bernier’s season is turning into quite the story, and it’s only December.

Sent down by the Leafs on a conditioning stint that was more to do with his mental well-being than any physical injury, Bernier recorded his third straight shutout for the Toronto Marlies Friday evening.

It sets a franchise record for consecutive shutouts by a Marlies goaltender, surpassing the double shutout Jussi Rynnas recorded back in January of 2012.

The Marlies defense should not be overlooked, however, as Bernier has not seen 30 shots in a game yet. This was his busiest night so far in making 27 saves.

It was a penalty-ridden game up until the last half of the final period, with both teams guilty of squandering a number of good opportunities on the man advantage.

Utica were ruing their luck just 1:40 into the game as Toronto turned the puck over, allowing Linden Vey to feed Darren Archibald, but the latter found Bernier more than his equal.

In what was a frantic opening twenty minutes, the Marlies responded with efforts from Carrick, Panik and Leivo as barely a whistle was blown or breath taken.

Utica thought they had taken a lead twelve seconds into their second powerplay, but the goal was waived off due to what was clear goaltender interference, although it was ruled incidental by the officials.

The Comets were given another chance with the man advantage inside the last five minutes of the first period. Alexandre Grenier was denied by Bernier moving swiftly from left to right, while Campbell bravely blocked an absolute rocket from Andrey Pedan.

At even strength it was the Marlies who were the better team, and despite spending more time killing penalties than their hosts, the shots favoured Toronto 9-8.

The middle frame was notable for nine minor penalties, although Toronto dominated the opening five minutes at 5v5 — none more so than the line of Kapanen-Arcobello-Hyman, who hemmed the Comets deep inside their zone for well over a minute but were unable to provide the killer touch.

Utica’s game plan was to engage physically with Toronto, and that paid off as Clune was called for high sticking. Bernier was twice called into action as he continually denied the home team any second opportunities.

Nylander missed a great chance seconds after the penalty expired, missing the net with a backhand effort while in all alone.

Toronto were the next team to think they had scored on a mad scramble in the crease, but it was once again waived off without the need for a video review.

From the nine minute mark until the 16th, seven penalties were called by the officials but neither team could find a way to break the deadlock.

Carrick came the closest for the Marlies with a shorthanded attempt, while Utica’s best efforts came from Grenier (blocked by Percy) and Blair Jones (denied by Bernier).

It should have been 1-0 for Utica with two minutes left to play in the second period after they had shown resilience to kill a two-man penalty. Zalewski exited the box and took a long outlet pass in his stride; in on an odd-man rush, he found Subban in space on the left. Out like a shot to meet the young defenseman, Bernier closed down the angle so quickly that he made a terrific save look relatively simple.

Toronto responded with a two-on-one break of their own, with Frattin choosing to shoot. Richard Bachman made the save, and the rebound looked certain to be put home by Leipsic but he was hauled down from behind. The play continued, with Nylander next to be denied by Bachman.

Toronto were looking for more than one penalty on the play as Campbell had his stick broken, but the officials waved away the protests.

Beginning the third on the power play, Toronto were gifted a two-man advantage as another questionable call from the officials led to Pedan heading to the box for holding.

The Marlies were guilty of trying to be far too cute with the extra man, barely testing Bachman. Utica survived the penalty with relative ease to the delight of the home crowd, who gave their team a standing ovation.

The officials then evened up the calls with a soft-looking roughing verdict on Carrick.
Toronto killed the penalty and the officials kept their whistles firmly in check for the rest of the game from that point on.

Forgotten in the Bernier hype was the performance of Bachman between the pipes for Utica — he was rightly was awarded the second star. At the nine minute mark, he committed robbery in turning aside Hyman and then Carrick on the rebound effort when a goal looked a certainty after a total breakdown from the home team.

Just ninety seconds later, Toronto finally broke down Utica’s resistance.

Nylander saw his attempted cross-ice feed denied, but Leivo was able to pick up the puck behind the net. Keeping his head up, Leivo showed patience to wait for Panik crashing the net and picked him out perfectly. The Slovakian right winger did the rest, scoring for the third consecutive game.

Utica pushed hard, but didn’t look like tying the game up until they pulled Bachman for an extra attacker with 1:45 remaining. They had Toronto running around and forced them into icing the puck with 56 seconds left on the clock. Controlling the play after winning the resultant offensive zone faceoff win, Utica laid the puck back for Subban but his effort rang off the iron.

It was the sweetest of sounds for Bernier and Toronto, who secured the victory with an empty net goal from Rich Clune.

Post Game Notes

– Jonathan Bernier has now not been beaten on 70 shots while wearing a Marlies uniform.

– Bernier’s third straight shutout is the fifth of the season overall for the Marlies. Sparks recorded the first two.

– Richard Panik’s goal was his seventh of the season and his 20th point.

– With an assist on the game winner, Nylander registered his 30th point of the season.

– On Saturday night, Toronto will face a Syracuse team that fell 3-1 in Albany Friday evening and have now lost four straight games. Antoine Bibeau joins the team Saturday morning and is expected to start.

Game Highlights

Marlies Player Stats

Campbell, Andrew00210
Brennan, T.J.00000
Harrington, Scott00002
Percy, Stuart00020
Hyman, Zach01110
Leivo, Josh01120
Carrick, Sam00142
Clune, Richard10112
Panik, Richard10140
Leipsic, Brendan00010
Gauthier, Frederik00000
Arcobello, Mark00064
Bailey, Casey00012
Frattin, Matt00022
Kapanen, Kasperi00010
Loov, Viktor00010
Valiev, Rinat00200
Nylander, William01130