TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs responded to an early deficit, outshot an opponent and kept pressing with the lead. Quite an impressive first win for Peter Horachek.
James van Riemsdyk scored two goals and added an assist, helping the Maple Leafs to a 5-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. The win was the Maple Leafs’ first in two games under Horachek, who took over on an interim basis for the fired Randy Carlyle.
“I definitely feel like that’s how we need to approach every game, for sure,” Horachek said. “It’s not going to be perfect all the time, but what we want them to do is play more in that direction that we played tonight.”
Tyler Bozak, Daniel Winnik and Phil Kessel added goals for Toronto, and Jonathan Bernier made 18 saves.
Ryan Johansen scored twice for the Blue Jackets, who were held to just 20 shots — the second-fewest allowed this season by the Maple Leafs who gave up only 10 to Buffalo in a 4-0 win on Oct. 28.
“I think it’s all part of the process,” defenseman Cody Franson said. “To keep a team to under 25 shots takes a lot of work. But the work that you’re doing allows you to play a less exhausting game. If you play hard in your D-zone, you don’t spend as much time down there, and therefore you don’t have to spend as much time hitting people and trying to defend. You can get in the offensive zone and not necessarily have to be as physical.”
Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves after signing a $29.7-million, four-year extension earlier in the day.
“It was tough,” Bobrovsky said. “Tough game. Tough start, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Johansen got Columbus started off early, going in on a breakaway after Franson turned the puck over to give the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead just 3:15 in. Johansen extended his goal streak to five games and his point streak to 10.
“Our team really responded,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We stuck with the way that we had to play. We didn’t give up a whole lot all night and it was start-to-finish probably one of our strongest games that we’ve played as a team.”
At 8:30, Bozak tied it when his attempted centering pass from below the goal-line went off the inside of Columbus defenseman Cody Goloubef’s right skate and in. Bobrovsky could do nothing to stop it.
A few minutes later, Bozak was at it again. This time, he made a perfect pass to Winnik, who beat Bobrovsky short side at 14:32 to give the Leafs the lead.
Then, Toronto’s power play went to work. With David Savard already in the box for interference, the Blue Jackets took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty to give the Leafs 1:39 of 5-on-3 time.
The Leafs made the most of it, as van Riemsdyk’s cross-crease pass went off Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin’s stick before Kessel got a final whack in at the goal-line for his 19th of the season to make it 3-1 at 16:31.
On the remainder of the regular power play, van Riemsdyk beat Bobrovsky clean at 17:43 to give the Leafs a three-goal lead. It was the first time Toronto scored more than one power-play goal in a game since Nov. 29.
“They were bad penalties,” Columbus coach Todd Richards said. “We lost too many battles on the walls, in the corners. I think we took four penalties so you’re giving a team, plus the five-on-three just off of a line change. So, bad penalties. You aren’t giving yourself a chance to win.”
When Winnik took a tripping penalty early in the second, the Blue Jackets scored a power-play goal of their own. With Scott Hartnell setting a screen in front, Johansen scored his second of the night and 15th of the season.
Van Riemsdyk’s second goal went into an empty net to seal it.
“That’s the kind of game that we’re striving toward on an every-night basis,” Franson said. “If we can play like that as a group, we spend less time in our own zone and we’re a much better team because of it.”
NOTES: Referee Dean Morton was upended by David Clarkson in an accidental collision early in the first period. Morton flipped in the air and went down to the ice in pain. After being attended to by training staff, Morton was helped off and did not return. Marc Joanette worked the rest of the game with linesmen Greg Devorski and Mark Shewchyk. … Kessel was playing in his 406th consecutive game, second in Leafs history behind only Tim Horton (486). … The late J.P. Parise was honored on the video screens in the first period. Parise, a member of Canada’s 1972 Summit Series team, died Wednesday night from lung cancer. He was 73.