TORONTO -- After losing three games in a row and being outscored 15-4 in their past two, the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded with one of their best efforts of the season, a 5-2 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Air Canada Centre on Thursday.
"It was nice for us," said Toronto left wing James van Riemsdyk, who scored twice. "When things aren't going well for us in this city, I think there is a lot of overanalyzing going on. You've got the most passionate fans in the world here and a lot of (media) coverage, so you know there's going to be a lot of people giving their two cents worth on us."
The Lightning (13-6-2) have lost two in a row.
"We have made some costly mistakes the last couple of games, for whatever reason," Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos said. "It's not the way we played in the first 18 games."
The Maple Leafs (10-8-2) pulled away with three second-period goals.
Toronto, which trailed the Nashville Predators 8-0 in a 9-2 loss Tuesday, wanted to get off to a fast start and scored 1:29 into the game Thursday when left wing Daniel Winnik spotted right wing David Clarkson alone in the slot and fed him a pass. Clarkson one-timed a shot that eluded a crowd in front and Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop for his sixth goal of the season, one more than he scored in 60 games in his first season with Toronto.
Toronto had a good opportunity to add to its lead when Tampa Bay's Radko Gudas was penalized for tripping at 16:32 and Brian Boyle for high-sticking at 17:41, each on Nazem Kadri. That gave the Maple Leafs a two-man advantage for 51 seconds. However, it was the Lightning who scored shorthanded, Alex Killorn getting his fifth goal of the season at 18:50.
Toronto coach Randy Carlyle, asked if he thought to himself, here we go again, smiled and said, "Yeah, there were a few more words than, 'Here we go again.' It was not polite."
The Maple Leafs regained the lead at 2:45 of the second period when left wing Richard Panik, who was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay on Oct. 9, deked Bishop to his backhand for his fourth goal of the season.
Van Riemsdyk added to Toronto's lead with his eighth of the season. The left wing broke in 2-on-2 with right wing Phil Kessel and elected to shoot, connecting on a 15-foot snap shot at 12:31.
With the Lighting playing shorthanded, van Riemsdyk scored 2:44 later when he snagged a rebound at the side of the net and lifted a shot high into the goal past Bishop to make it 4-1. It's the first multigoal game for van Riemsdyk this season.
Trailing by three, the Lightning pulled Bishop for an extra skater with a little more than five minutes remaining. Stamkos scored on a rebound at 15:47, his 13th of the season, to make it 4-2.
The Lighting played most of the final 4:13 with six skaters and generated good chances but did not score again.
"Let's not kid ourselves; that's not a bad hockey team over there," Stamkos said. "This media stuff that has been going on the past few days makes them seem like they are the worst team in the League. They are a good hockey team that had a couple of bad games. Every team goes through that. They were better than us tonight, and not to take anything away from them, we weren't good."
Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak scored an empty-netter at 19:52. He shot from the defensive zone.
Carlyle pointed to the great job No. 1 center Tyler Bozak did winning 22 of 30 faceoffs (73.3 percent).
"[Bozak] was dynamite in the faceoff circle, and I think when you are matched up with players like Stamkos and they don't start with the puck it is an advantage to you," Carlyle said.