Kyle Wellwood and Michael Peca, playing in his 700th career game, scored 34 seconds apart to lead the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. "When you get on the road after a loss, you really want to have a good game," said Wellwood, who added an assist.
The fans at Air Canada Centre showed their displeasure with the Leafs' play in a lacklustre 4-1 defeat to the struggling Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. On Friday night, Toronto so dominated the second period that it was Blue Jackets fans who were booing their team's effort.
Bryan McCabe and John Pohl also scored and Andrew Raycroft had 23 saves for Toronto, which had given up 14 goals in its last three games.
The Maple Leafs were at their best when they were a man down. Columbus was 0-for-7 on the power play.
"(We had) a little slow start but the special teams were huge for us tonight," McCabe said. "The penalty kill was excellent and probably won us the game."
Manny Malhotra and Alexander Svitov scored for the Blue Jackets, who had played only one game in the previous 10 days. The game was just the fifth this season for Columbus, the fewest in the NHL. Every other team has played at least two more games and five teams have played three more.
"We had a little bit of a jump early in the first, but it seems like we're missing a little bit ... a half a step or whatever," Blue Jackets defenceman Adam Foote said.
With the score tied 1-1 and the Maple Leafs on the power play, Darcy Tucker's blind backhand pass from the right doorstep set up Wellwood for the goal.
Wellwood has two goals and eight assists in his last seven games. Tucker has five goals and three assists over the same span.
Before that goal could even be announced, the Leafs struck again. Alexander Steen dug the puck out of the right corner and whisked a centring pass to Peca in the slot.
"It feels good to score, especially the first one of the season," said Peca, a free agent signing in the off-season. "You don't want to go too long without getting it. I feel very comfortable."
Columbus forward Rick Nash went down late in the game and was helped off the ice but returned to the bench. He said the Blue Jackets will turn things around.
"I don't think there's any reason to panic," he said.
Leafs captain Mats Sundin set up the first score. From behind the net, Sundin's centring pass went off the skate of a defenceman to McCabe for a hard shot from the top of the right circle.
"We weren't really confident when shooting the puck, then when we got one we relaxed and started to shoot the puck a little bit more," Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. "That is basically our game."
Columbus pulled even less than three minutes later with Jason Chimera skating left to right behind Raycroft, shedding defenceman Ian White at the boards and then throwing the puck through the crease. Malhotra had an almost open net for his second goal of the season.
Notes: RW Ben Ondrus, who had missed the first seven games with a bruised knee, made his season debut for Toronto. ... It was the first meeting between the teams in Columbus since March 20, 2003, a 4-3 Blue Jackets' win in OT behind Tyler Wright's hat trick. ... Maple Leafs C Jeff O'Neill was inadvertently tripped by a teammate and rammed his knee into the boards late in the first period. He was helped off the ice but returned. ... RW David Vyborny played his 400th game for Columbus.