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Maple Leafs 6, Lightning 1 @NHLdotcom

TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs have responded to all the talk about shake ups and firings with their best hockey of the season.

Jason Blake started a four-goal spurt in the second period and the Maple Leafs routed the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-1 Monday night to improve to 5-1-1 since a loss on Nov. 24 that sparked the rumors and fan outrage.

"Sometimes you need an absurd amount of pressure to get things going," Leafs head coach Paul Maurice said. "So absurd that you think the entire game of hockey will be called off based on the way the Leafs are playing. It helps put things in perspective."

Chad Kilger had a pair of goals, Matt Stajan, Nik Antropov and captain Mats Sundin also scored for the Leafs, who play their next seven games on the road.

"The confidence level on this team is high," said Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood, who had two assists.

And they've done it with much better defensive play, cutting down on turnovers and shots against, as well as getting top-notch goaltending from Vesa Toskala, who made 26 saves.

"Vesa has settled down and is playing outstanding," said Antropov, who added an assist. "We're feeding off it. He's playing amazing right now."

Michel Ouellet scored for the Lightning, who have an NHL-worst 2-11-1 road record.

League-leading scorer Vincent Lecavalier did not get a point for the for the first time since Tampa Bay's game Nov. 29 against Detroit.

"It's very disappointing, not the game we wanted to play," said Lecavalier. "We played well in the first period but after that we couldn't keep the play in their zone."

The game was tied 0-0 when Lightning center Brad Richards went off with an injury at 7:32 of the second period. Richards crashed into the corner boards and left the game favoring his left leg. The team said the injury wasn't serious and that Richards could possibly even play in their next game at Montreal.

Blake, Sundin, Antropov and Kilger scored in a span of 4:32, a few minutes after Richards went off. Tampa head coach John Tortorella yanked goalie Johan Holmqvist after the fourth goal in favor of Marc Denis. Holmqvist gave up four goals on 21 shots.

Blake got things going at 10:09, redirecting Kyle Wellwood's shot. Sundin made it 2-0 on the power play at 12:32 with a backhand deke on a breakaway. Antropov knocked in a rebound at 14:07 and Kilger capped binge with a long wrist shot that beat screened Holmqvist, who was screened, at 14:41.

Sundin and Antropov each notched their 15th goals of the season, tied for the team lead. They each also added an assist. Wellwood and Hal Gill each had two assists.

Toskala earned his 11th win of the season as he made his seventh straight start in goal for Toronto.

The Leafs' 29th-ranked power play went 2-for-3.

Ouellet redirected Filip Kuba's point shot with one minute to go in the second to make it 4-1.

Stajan finished off a nice setup at the side of the net from Boyd Devereaux 5:15 into the third period. Kilger completed a nearly identical scoring play from Antropov at 12:12 to make it 6-1.

Notes: Tampa went 0-for-5 on the power play ... The Leafs put forward Bates Battaglia on waivers Monday ... Toronto next plays Friday at Atlanta followed by a game Saturday in Montreal. They next play at home Dec. 29 against the New York Rangers ... It was the first of four games between Tampa and Toronto this season. The Leafs won all four last season ... Top defenseman Dan Boyle (left wrist) remains out for Tampa, as does forward Ryan Craig (left knee) ... Leafs defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo (right knee) is hoping to play his first game of the season before the end of the month.

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