Roaring cheers greeted the announcement of Jonathan Bernier as the Toronto Maple Leafs' starting goaltender. His return from injury was desperately needed amid a season-worst losing streak.
Bernier came back from a five-game absence and did what he could against the potent Blues. But the result was the same as recent efforts for the Leafs, who made too many mistakes in front of him and couldn't come back, dropping their sixth straight, 5-3 to St. Louis on Tuesday night.
The loss, coupled with the Washington Capitals reaching overtime, dropped the Leafs out of a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 14.
Bernier stopped the first 20 shots he faced and even played with a rare early lead before the Blues broke through. In his first game since aggravating a groin injury March 13, he finished with 44 saves on 48 shots and held his team in the game for much of the night.
Blues captain David Backes had a hat trick (counting the empty-netter) and U.S. Olympic hero T.J. Oshie and former Leafs forward Alex Steen scored once apiece against Bernier, who fell victim to a failed clearing attempt by Dion Phaneuf and other blunders.
Joffrey Lupul scored early and then Carl Gunnarsson and James van Riemsdyk had goals in the third period for the Leafs (36-30-8), who had the building buzzing late.