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Maple Leafs top Blue Jackets, 1st win under Horachek

by Joe Yerdon /

TORONTO -- After a visit from Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan on Friday morning, the players came away with a needed victory at night.

James van Riemsdyk had two goals and an assist to help them to a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre.

The Maple Leafs (22-17-3) ended a three-game losing streak and gave interim coach Peter Horachek his first win with Toronto.

"I thought there was a clear focus [Thursday] and a clear focus this morning," Horachek said. "I felt it. I was worried about them being nervous again, because I thought the first game they all seemed a little tight and nervous."

Horachek was named coach Wednesday after Randy Carlyle was fired Tuesday. Horachek was awarded the Maple Leafs' celebratory camouflage hooded sweatshirt by the players.

The Maple Leafs held the Blue Jackets to 20 shots on goal. It was their second-fewest allowed this season (they limited the Buffalo Sabres to 10 in a 4-0 win on Oct. 28).

"That's the kind of game that we're striving towards on an every-night basis," Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson said. "Our forwards did a great job of playing in our [defensive] zone, they played a slow and in-the-house game. There were options for us in the middle all night. They helped us break out of our zone, and they did a great job on the transition and generating some offensive chances.

"When we can play like that as a group, we spend less time in on our own zone and we're a much better team because of it."

The strong defensive game came in Horachek's second as coach and after the meeting with Shanahan. The Maple Leafs lost 6-2 at home to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

"He's the boss of our organization and the president of our team, so when he addresses the team, the team listens with open ears," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "It wasn't a negative meeting, but it was about what he expects from our team, very straightforward, professional, and I thought our team responded well and in the right way."

Toronto took a 4-1 first-period lead.

Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen scored his 14th goal of the season 3:15 into the game, but Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak made it 1-1 with his 14th 5:15 later.

Bozak tried to pass across the crease to Phil Kessel, but the puck went off the skate of Blue Jackets defenseman Cody Goloubef and through the legs of goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

"Scoring on the first shot on net, it's just allowing them, say, 'Listen guys, stick with it, don't let anything bother you and just keep going,'" Horachek said. "They did a great job. There certainly was a positive pull there."

Daniel Winnik's third goal of the season with 5:26 left made it 2-1, and then Kessel and van Riemsdyk scored power-play goals 52 seconds apart.

"When we don't end up chasing the game in our own zone, we control the puck, we execute with our passes and break out of our zone cleaner, it leads to carrying pucks into the zone and being able to forecheck," Franson said. "When we don't chase the puck in our D-zone, we can dump the puck in and go get it rather than having to change because we're tired."

Kessel's 19th of the season came on a 5-on-3 power play after Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard took an interference penalty that was followed by a bench minor for too many men on the ice 21 seconds later. Kessel took a cross-crease pass from van Riemsdyk and deflected the puck past Bobrovsky with 3:29 left in the period.

"They were bad penalties," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "We lost too many battles on the walls, in the corners. I think we took four penalties … plus the 5-on-3 just off of a line change. You aren't giving yourself a chance to win."

Kessel set up van Riemsdyk with 2:37 to go when he passed across the zone for a wrist shot that beat Bobrovsky from the faceoff circle to his left.

Van Riemsdyk's second goal came into an empty-net with 1:13 left in the third period; it gave him 19 goals this season.

"I think that's been one of our faults this year, is when we have leads like that, we sit back," Winnik said. "But I thought we did a great job of just taking it to them. They always say when you're in the offensive zone, it's tough for them to score some goals."

Johansen's second goal came on a power play 3:43 into the second period. Winnik took a tripping penalty at 2:31, and Johansen's wrist shot from the faceoff circle beat Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier up high.

The Blue Jackets (18-18-3) had a two-game winning streak end.

"It was nice to get an early goal there but we had to keep pressure on them and try to work for that next goal, and we kind of sat back a little bit," Johansen said. "We used our sticks to check instead of our feet and that turned into a couple of penalties and then we let their power play go to work. Credit to them, they did a good job there of responding and getting them on the board. We had to keep pushing there."

Bobrovsky made 27 saves after signing a four-year contract extension worth $29.7 million on Friday afternoon.

"I'm really happy about that and I'm really happy to stay with the team and this organization," Bobrovsky said. "They were great to me and it's great to be a Blue Jacket for four more years."

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