MONTREAL - It was a win that made the Toronto Maple Leafs feel good about themselves again.
Darcy Tucker scored two goals and the Leafs rebounded from their worst loss of the season with a 4-2 victory over the rival Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. That erased the bad taste from an 8-0 pasting at the hands of the Florida Panthers at home on Tuesday night.
"We were embarrassed at home against Florida and we wanted to show people we're better than that," said Leafs captain Mats Sundin, who collected his 1,300th career point with an assist. "I think we had a good game."
Kris Newbury got his first goal of the season and Kyle Wellwood also scored for Toronto (22-25-9), which posted its second win in the last three games.
Tomas Plekanec equalled his career high set last season with his 20th goal and Alex Kovalev also scored for Montreal (29-17-9), which suffered only the second regulation time loss in its last eight games.
With Ottawa's 5-4 win over Florida, the Senators moved three points clear of Montreal atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Canadiens play in Ottawa on Saturday.
"We've been playing so well in the last two months, you guys (reporters) praised our team every day and we got cocky," said Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau. "Every game this year against them has been close and we shouldn't expect anything different.
"We weren't ready to battle."
For a second straight game, all of Montreal's scoring came from its top line of Plekanec, Kovalev and Andrei Kostitsyn, while the rest of the forwards continue to struggle.
Defenceman Bryan McCabe returned from a hand injury to boost a Leafs team that played a solid defensive game in its own zone and got a strong outing from goaltender Vesa Toskala, who made 34 saves.
"They have a good power play, but we did a good job keeping them to the outside," said Toskala, whose team held Montreal's league-best power play to 0-for-4. "It's good to bounce back, especially in this building against that team.
"They've been playing really well lately. It's a good win for us, but we have to keep playing the same way."
The teams have split six meetings equally so far and play twice more in the final week of the season. There were many Maple Leaf jerseys among the sell-out crowd of 21,273, and they saw their injury-plagued team play with energy and beat a team that started the day 10 places higher in the standings.
"It's a great atmosphere every time Montreal and Toronto play," added Sundin. "It doesn't matter where you are in the standings."
Plekanec scored first 11:09 into the game on a feed at the side of the net from Kovalev, but Newbury tied it at 17:24 with a bullet drive from the high slot after his checking line forced a turnover in the Montreal zone.
Tucker took a pass from behind the net from Matt Stajan and beat Carey Price with a quick shot 1:24 into the second period.
The Leafs killed off three Montreal power plays in the second period, then scored on their first one of the game as Wellwood took Tomas Kaberle's rebound and lifted it over Price from in close. It was Wellwood's first goal in 16 games since Dec. 22.
Price made a big save on Sundin on another power play and on the transition, Plekanec sent Kovalev in alone from the Toronto blue-line to score just as the penalty expired at 6:20 into the third frame.
Price made his first start for Montreal since he was recalled from AHL Hamilton this week.
Tucker put away an empty-netter to seal the win with less than 30 seconds left.
Notes: With McCabe's return from a broken hand, defenceman Andy Wozniewski cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL Toronto Marlies. McCabe missed 22 games after breaking his left hand on a check by Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn on Dec. 15. . . . Montreal defenceman Francis Bouillon, who was doubtful with a sore foot, ended up playing, so winger Michael Ryder sat out a third straight game. . . . Defenceman Roman Hamrlik missed a second game with a virus. . . . Defenceman Ryan O'Byrne, who has returned from a broken thumb, was assigned to AHL Hamilton. . . . Montreal announced it signed free agent centre Brock Trotter from the University of Denver to a three-year contract and assigned him to Hamilton.