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Bernier gets better of old club, Avalanche beat Leafs to extend win streak to 10


TORONTO — Colorado goaltender Jonathan Bernier heard the Bronx cheers from the Air Canada Centre crowd on Monday night.

He remembers listening to Toronto's fans giving him the same banter when he was a member of the Maple Leafs as they struggled through the 2015-16 season.

"It's not as bad when you are the away team," said Bernier.

Bernier made 29 saves in his first start at the ACC since Toronto traded him in July 2016 as red-hot Colorado extended its win streak to 10 games with a 4-2 victory over the host Leafs.

The 29-year-old Bernier, who is on a personal nine-game winning run in place of injured starter Semyon Varlamov, struggled in his final year with Toronto, which was rebuilding at the time. Hometown crowds would serenade him when he gave up soft goals and at one point he found himself back in the American Hockey League on a conditioning stint.

All of that adversity made the Avalanche's win in Toronto that much sweeter for the Laval, Que., native.

"That's one of those games you look on the calendar and want to play and want to win," said Bernier. "(It's) mixed feelings, I had some great memories and bad memories here. I wanted to make sure I brought my A game and gave my team a chance to win."

Blake Comeau scored the go-ahead goal with 7:43 to play for the Avalanche (27-16-3).

Comeau beat a backchecking Auston Matthews to the net and re-directed a Carl Soderberg pass through Frederik Andersen to put Colorado ahead for good.

"Couple minor mistakes and they capitalized on them," said Matthews. "Pretty good game by us but they're a hot team and capitalized."

Gabriel Bourque opened the scoring just 2:19 into the game, banging in the rebound off a Tyson Jost shot that Andersen took in the chest and couldn't hold on to.

Patrick Marleau tied the game only 19 seconds into the second period, blasting a one-timer from the top of the face-off circle over Bernier's glove on a set up from Leo Komarov.

Matthews thought he gave Toronto the lead on a goal-mouth scramble, tapping in a loose puck after it hit Zach Hyman in the skate and skipped behind the Avalanche netminder. But Colorado coach Jared Bednar challenged for goalie interference and it was overturned, angering Mike Babcock on the Leafs bench.

"I've got texts from half the coaches telling me that should be a goal, so if the coaches don't know, we don't know, but I'm not worried about that," said Babcock. 

Matthews scored off a William Nylander rebound on his next shift after the disallowed goal, and made sure everyone knew it was a good goal by pointing at the net like an official and showing some rare emotion as he celebrated at 9:17.

"Just made sure the puck was in this time, was pretty excited about that one," said Matthews.

Matthews' goal was the first time on Colorado's 10-game win streak that the Avalanche trailed, and it only lasted for 1:34 before Nail Yakupov took a cross-ice pass from Alexander Kerfoot and beat Andersen at 10:51.

"That's one of the things I'm happy about," said Bednar. "We fall behind, Toronto started to get some juice and we were able to respond and answer back. I think it shows we're maturing as a group."

Nathan MacKinnon, who was named the NHL's first star of the week earlier in the day with four goals and six points in three Colorado wins, had his nine-game point streak snapped.

His line was held in check all night by Nazem Kadri, Marleau and Komarov until Gabriel Landeskog scored Colorado's fourth goal into an empty net.

"Another good indication of what I liked," said Bednar. "They might not have had the best night offensively but we still found a way with our other lines to get the job done."

Colorado kicked off its winning streak with a 4-3 overtime victory on Dec. 29 at home against Toronto. 

The Leafs announced just before puck drop that defenceman Morgan Rielly was placed on the injured reserve list. He missed his second straight game because of an upper-body injury suffered Thursday against Philadelphia.

"We don't think it's real serious, but it's serious enough he isn't playing," said Babcock.

Kyle Cicerella, The Canadian Press

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