Bernier can’t save wilting Leafs against Blues; Toronto drops sixth in a row

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The sense was that Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier would be thrown right back into the fire after an injury-related hiatus, and the St. Louis Blues definitely made that true with a 23-shot first period on Tuesday. Bernier helped to keep the Maple Leafs competitive, but it wasn’t enough as the Blues won 5-3.

With that, the wilting Leafs have now lost six straight contests, possibly providing fans with a regular season collapse to stomach after last season’s crushing Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins. (It almost feels mean to mention that at a time like this. Apologies.)

The Maple Leafs must hope that the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets do minimal damage in their games on Tuesday, but more than anything else, they clearly must be in a soul-searching mode right now.

The Blues likely feel just fine, on the other hand, as Ryan Miller is now 8-2-1 with his new team. David Backes collected a hat trick while T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen generated three-point nights (one goal and two assists each). The Blues beefed up their West-leading standings total to 105 points, currently also tops in the NHL.

Bernier stopped 44 Blues shots on Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough against for a falling Leafs squad.

Sometimes on-paper matchups don’t seem as one-sided in reality in sports, but this one went predictably, which turns out to be bad news for a Maple Leafs team that’s grasping for optimism.