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“America” solves Bernier, beats Toronto

Coming into the night, Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier was 8-1-0 all-time against the Nashville Predators. And, after the first period, it looked like it would soon be 9-1-0.

But then the Americans took over. Not Americans as in “the team from America” but Americans as in “Predators players who are Americans.”

Seth Jones from Plano, Texas, Matt Cullen from Virginia, Minnesota and Craig Smith of Madison, Wisconsin all scored as Nashville beat Bernier and the Leafs, 4-2. Colin Wilson, a Greenwich, Connecticut native and Boston University alum, kept the American theme going by adding two assists.

Rookie goalie Marek Mazanec surrendered the game’s opening goal but ended up turning aside 24 of the 26 shots he faced for his third straight win. The 2012 sixth round pick is now 3-2-0 at the NHL level.

Peter Holland, Nashville 2009 draft picks Taylor Beck and Michael Latta‘s linemate with the Guelph Storm, opened the scoring. In the opening frame, Holland picked up the puck in the neutral zone, carried over the blueline and used Mayson Raymond as a decoy as he snapped a laser past Mazanec to make it 1-0, Toronto.

In the second, however, Nashville took over. Jones bagged his third of the season when, on the power play, Cullen found him at the blueline cocked and ready for a one-timer.

Midway through the contest, Cullen would add a goal of his own. Gabriel Bourque won a battle for the puck in the corner and fed Cullen in the high slot. The veteran center fanned on the initial shot but that froze Bernier, allowing Cullen to try again. The second attempt would find the back of the net to make it 2-1, Nashville.

Just five minutes later, Smith would score the first of his two markers on the night. On yet another man advantage, Cullen circled out from behind the Toronto net and found Wilson breaking toward the slot. Wilson bobbled the pass but Smith was there to whip the loose puck in behind Bernier to make it 3-1.

The former Wisconsin Badger added another in the opening moments of the final stanza. Cullen registered his fourth point on the night when, from behind the net, he dished the puck to Smith along the half-boards who fired a rising shot toward the Maple Leaf crease. Bernier tried to use his left shoulder to block the knuckle puck out of harms way but, instead, he deflected it in to give Nashville a three-goal lead.

Toronto would make things interesting with a Nazem Kadri marker with about five minutes remaining but it was too little, too late.

The Predators have now rebounded from a streak in which they scored just two goals in 12 periods of action with three straight wins. With the victory, they improved to 11-9-2 on the young season and hurdled the Winnipeg Jets in the Central Division standings.

Nashville will conclude their stretch of consecutive games against four of the NHL’s original six teams when they take on the New York Rangers Saturday night at home.

Puck drops at 7:00pm Central.