MONTREAL (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs regrouped to put their worst loss of the season behind them while sticking it to their longtime rival.
Darcy Tucker scored his second goal of the game into an empty net, Vesa Toskala made 34 saves and Toronto had three straight goals for a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night.
Kris Newbury and Kyle Wellwood also scored for the Maple Leafs, 1-3-1 in their previous five games.
Toronto scored three straight goals after falling behind 1-0 midway through the first to bounce back from Tuesday's 8-0 loss to Florida.
"I just think we played hard as a group tonight and Vesa played great in nets for us," Tucker said.
Tomas Plekanec scored his 20th goal to tie his career high, and Alex Kovalev got his 25th for Montreal, which entered the game one point behind Ottawa for the Northeast Division and Eastern Conference leads.
"Any time Montreal and Toronto play it seems it doesn't matter where the teams are in the standings, it's a playoff type of atmosphere and you can feel it in the dressing room," Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin said.
"I think for us the big thing was we were embarrassed at home against Florida and we wanted to make sure that we showed people we're a better team than that, and I thought we came back and showed some character and had a good game tonight."
Tucker, who got his eighth goal with 29 seconds remaining to put the game away, scored 1:24 into the second to give Toronto its first lead at 2-1. Wellwood made it 3-1 with a power-play goal late in the period.
Newbury tied it at 1 when he got the first of the Maple Leafs' three straight goals at 17:24 with his first goal in his 12th game of the season.
Kovalev got Montreal within one at 3-2 with 13:40 remaining in the third when he scored a short-handed goal with a backhand past Toskala on a breakaway after receiving a long pass at the Maple Leafs' blue line from Plekanec.
"I don't think we took them too lightly but we just didn't play the way we wanted to against them," Canadiens left wing Chris Higgins said. "We wanted to get up early. I think coming off their 8-0 loss, if we put one or two goals against them, it makes them play a different style and makes them overthink a little bit. We let them get in the game and gain confidence throughout the game."
Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan McCabe returned after missing 22 games. McCabe played his first game since Dec. 15, when he broke his left hand in a 4-1 loss to the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
|Vesa Toskala stops Steve Begin for one of his 34 saves. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)
"It swoll up like a balloon but it's fine," McCabe said. "I can do everything I need to do to play so that's all that matters."
Carey Price, who was recalled from Hamilton on Monday, stopped 24 shots in his first start for Montreal since he was sent to the minors after a 5-4 overtime loss to Washington on Jan. 5.
Cristobal Huet, who had started every game since then, ended a string of 13 consecutive starts. He was 9-3-1 over that stretch.
Sundin came to Robbie Earl's defense with 8:09 remaining after Montreal defenseman Mike Komisarek checked the rookie left wing into the boards in front of the Canadiens' bench. Sundin and Komisarek each got holding minors.
"I thought he hit Robbie Earl and then he kept punching him in the back of the head," said Sundin, who was assessed a holding minor along with Komisarek.
Toronto defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo fell awkwardly into the boards moments later when he tried to check Canadiens captain Saku Koivu from behind. Colaiacovo lay on the ice behind the Maple Leafs' net and was attended by trainer Rudy Cantu, who continued to work on the defenseman's neck as he sat on the bench.
Plekanec reached his milestone when he opened the scoring 11:09 in as he put a pass from Kovalev through Toskala's legs for his third goal in two games.
Notes: Newbury had two goals and two assists in 15 games in his NHL debut with Toronto last season. ... Canadiens D Roman Hamrlik missed his second game in a row because of a viral infection. ... Struggling RW Michael Ryder was left out of Montreal's lineup for a third straight game. Ryder, who has been a healthy scratch eight times this season, has eight goals and 10 assists in 47 games. He had 30 goals each of the past two seasons after he scored 25 in 2003-04, when he was named to the All-Rookie team. ... Montreal assigned D Ryan O'Byrne to Hamilton of the AHL prior to the game.