TORONTO - Toronto scored four goals on its first five shots, chasing Montreal goalie Carey Price early en route to a comfortable 5-1 win over the Canadiens in NHL play Saturday night.
It was a horror show for Price, who gave up three goals on four shots and was pulled after just 10 minutes 25 seconds. Peter Budaj didn't fare much better, giving up a goal on the first Leaf shot he faced.
At the other end, James Reimer was razor-sharp before 19,651 at the Air Canada Centre.
Kessel, who also had an assist, has five goals and two assists in his last three games. He also raised his career figures against Montreal to 13 goals and 20 assists in 39 games.
Davis Drewiske scored for Montreal (26-10-5), which is vying with Boston for the Northeast Division lead.
Montreal outshot Toronto 37-28.
While the Leafs won comfortably, it was hardly textbook hockey. Both sides had their sloppy moments.
At 13-4-2, the Habs came into the game with the fourth-best away record in the league. And they arrived on the heels of a 5-1 win in Buffalo on Thursday that secured a playoff berth.
But they were off their game Saturday when sieve-like goaltending put them being the 8-ball early. And as the game wore on, they gifted Toronto a string of extra-man rushes.
Toronto centre Nazem Kadri, who had an assist on the night, clearly woke up on the feisty side of bed. After being high-sticked by Francis Bouillon less than two minutes into the game, he went on to flatten Lars Eller with a bruising check at the boards. He finished the first period in the penalty box after sending Brendan Gallagher flying with his shoulder.
Seventeen seconds after Bouillon went off, Bozak tapped in a pass from James van Riemsdyk for his 12th of the season at 1:50 of the first to cap a nice passing play that started with Kessel at the blue-line.
Montreal's Brandon Prust and Toronto's Frazer McLaren then squared off at centre ice, with Prust acquitting himself well despite giving up three inches to the six-foot-five Leaf. It was Toronto's league-leading 40th fighting major of the season.
The Leafs got a cheap one at 8:08 when Price let a Komarov shot from a tight angle trickle through his legs.
McClement scored his seventh of the season at 10:25 on a beautiful solo effort, tucking the puck between his legs before sweeping a backhand through Price's legs. Michel Therrien had seen enough and sent in Budaj.
Drewiske trimmed the lead to 3-1 on Montreal's 11th shot, beating Reimer at 13:08 after creeping in from the point to one-time a nice pass from the corner by Gallagher.
Montreal looked to respond further with Andrei Markov ringing a shot from the point off the goalpost.
But Phaneuf restored the three-goal advantage at 17:06, evading a Hab at the blue-line before snapping a low screen shot that deflected in off Bouillon for his eighth of the season.
Montreal outshot Toronto 13-5 in the period but trailed 4-1.
"Unfortunate the period had to end," the Leafs' official Twitter feed noted dryly.
The scoring continued in the second as Toronto converted on a second two-on-one in a minute. Van Riemsdyk played provider again, evading a sliding Montreal defenceman to slip the puck over to Kessel to tuck away for his 15th of the season at 4:42. The goal came on the Leafs' ninth shot of the night.
Despite the 5-1 lead, Toronto had 10 giveaways to Montreal's one after 40 minutes. The Canadiens outshot the Leafs 28-19 after two periods.
Budaj robbed van Riemsdyk from up close during a Toronto power play in a third period that saw Montreal draw four minor penalties to Toronto's one.
With less than five minutes remaining, contented Leafs fans began to sing "Ole, Ole."
It was the fourth of five meetings between the two rivals, who could face off in the playoffs for the first time since 1979.
Toronto won both earlier games at the Bell Centre while Montreal was victorious in the other meeting at the ACC. The two teams wrap up the regular season April 27 in Toronto.