TORONTO - In their second game under interim coach Peter Horachek, the Toronto Maple Leafs showed improvement not just on the scoreboard but in their play.
The Leafs beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 Friday night at Air Canada Centre, in the process controlling the puck and out-shooting and out-chancing them.
Progress will be measured in many different ways the rest of the season under Horachek. Here's one thing: The Leafs held the Blue Jackets to just 20 shots, the second fewest of the season after allowing 10 to the Buffalo Sabres in October.
The Leafs (22-17-3) also made fewer mistakes and played a more structured brand of hockey than they did late in Randy Carlyle's tenure as coach. James van Riemsdyk scored twice, including an empty-netter, and Tyler Bozak, Daniel Winnik and Phil Kessel each had a goal.
Jonathan Bernier made 18 saves as Horachek picked up his first victory since taking over for Carlyle. Horachek won 26 games as interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season.
Ryan Johansen scored twice for the Blue Jackets (18-18-3), who got 27 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky. The franchise goaltender signed a US$29.7-million, four-year extension earlier in the day.
The Leafs play their next four games on the road, at Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose and St. Louis— starting Monday.
Things didn't start pretty for the Leafs against Columbus. Dion Phaneuf blew a tire after Cody Franson coughed the puck up in the neutral zone, and Johansen went in on a breakaway to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead just 3:15 in.
Johansen extended his goal streak to five games and his point streak to 10.
The Blue Jackets got into penalty trouble, something that bit them in a major way. But the Leafs' first two goals came at even strength.
At 8:30, Bozak tied the score when his attempted centring pass from below the goal-line went off the inside of Columbus defenceman Cody Goloubef's right skate and in. There was nothing Bobrovsky could do to stop it.
A few minutes later, Bozak was at it again. This time he made a perfect pass to Winnik, who beat Bobrovsky short side at 14:32 to give the Leafs the lead.
Then Toronto's power play went to work. With David Savard already in the box for interference, the Blue Jackets took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty to give the Leafs 1:39 of five-on-three time.
The Leafs made the most of it, as van Riemsdyk's cross-crease pass went off Columbus defenceman Fedor Tyutin's stick before Kessel got a final whack in at the goal-line for his 19th of the season to make it 3-1 at 16:31.
On the remainder of the regular power play, van Riemsdyk beat Bobrovsky clean at 17:43 to give the Leafs a three-goal lead. It was the first time Toronto scored more than one power-play goal in a game since Nov. 29.
When Winnik took a tripping penalty early in the second, the Blue Jackets scored a power-play goal of their own. With Scott Hartnell setting a screen in front, Johansen scored his second of the night and 15th of the season.
Notes — Referee Dean Morton was upended by David Clarkson in an accidental collision early in the first period. Morton flipped in the air and went down to the ice in pain. After being attended to by training staff, Morton was helped off and did not return. Marc Joanette worked the rest of the game with linesmen Greg Devorski and Mark Shewchyk. ... Kessel was playing in his 406th consecutive game, second in Leafs history behind only Tim Horton (486). The late J.P. Parise was honoured on the video screens in the first period. Parise, a member of Canada's 1972 Summit Series team, died Wednesday night from lung cancer. He was 73. ... Attendance was announced as 18,965.