TORONTO - James van Riemsdyk knew the Toronto Maple Leafs needed a bounce-back win after dropping back-to-back ugly losses to the Buffalo Sabres and Nashville Predators.
Van Riemsdyk went top shelf twice in the second period and Jonathan Bernier provided a solid showing in goal to lead the Maple Leafs to a much-needed 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
"It was nice for us to put that little streak, whatever you wanna call it, the bad play behind us," said van Riemsdyk. "Now we have to build on this and find some consistency."
Van Riemsdyk had his first two-goal game of the season and Bernier bounced back from a forgettable showing against Nashville on Tuesday as Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak in front of 19,089 fans at Air Canada Centre.
David Clarkson, Richard Panik and Roman Polak also pitched in as Toronto (10-8-2) scored early in the first and added three more in the second.
Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos replied for Tampa Bay (13-6-2).
Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle said consistency has eluded Toronto this season, and he hoped the team can use their win over the Lightning to eliminate the ebbs and flows that have followed them around lately.
"Sometimes you have to accept that the hockey gods are going to be against you, and that's what we believed (Tuesday)," he said. "It was nine goals, and we were embarrassed by it. And there was nothing we could do to take it back. But we sure didn't want to have something bad happen to our hockey club tonight, and I think they were rewarded for their hard work."
The Maple Leafs shot out to an early 1-0 lead when Daniel Winnik beat out an icing call, circled the net and fed a pass to David Clarkson, whose one-timer beat Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
Killorn briefly tied it late in the first when he beat Bernier with a short-handed, screened snapshot at 18:10 to make it 1-1 heading into the second.
That's when the Leafs took it to Tampa Bay, starting with a goal from former Lightning forward Richard Panik, who capitalized on a bad turnover by defender Matthew Carle and promptly tucked the puck past Bishop for a 2-1 lead.
Van Riemsdyk then beat Bishop over his glove at the 12:31 mark of the period and then again on the power play at 15:15. On his second goal, Van Riemsdyk was left all alone with a rebound from a Phil Kessel wrister, electing to flip the puck past Bishop on the Leafs' fourth goal. Van Riemsdyk's second goal gave the Leafs a three-goal cushion heading into the third.
At the other end of the ice, the normally high-scoring Lightning couldn't break through Bernier, who redeemed himself after being pulled from Tuesday night's 9-2 loss to Nashville after giving up three goals on 12 shots over 20 minutes.
"We executed like it was the first day of training camp," Lighting head coach Jon Cooper said. "We play speed game, that's what puts teams on their heels. When we're playing slow and we're not executing we're in trouble."
Aside from the Killhorn goal in the first, Bernier's only other blemish came when Stamkos scored one in close late in the third with the goalie pulled and just over four minutes to play.
But despite a late Lightning charge in the final minute, Bernier stood tall to record his sixth win of the season, stopping 26 of 28 shots.
"I think we're keeping it simple. We keep our forecheck going and I think that's a big reason why we can spend some time in their zone and kill some time," said Bernier. "if you just back in to your zone, that's when you're gonna get a lot of shots."
Polak put the puck in to the empty net to seal the win for Toronto