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 visiting Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-1, last night to improve to 5-1-1 since a loss Nov. 24 that sparked the rumors and fan outrage.
"Sometimes you need an absurd amount of pressure to get things going," Leafs 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, and 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.
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.
The game was scoreless when Lightning center Brad Richards went off with a leg injury at 7:32 of the second period. The team said the injury wasn't serious and that Richards possibly could even play in its next game at Montreal. Blake, Sundin, Antropov, and Kilger scored in a span of 4:32, a few minutes after Richards went off.
Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella yanked goalie Johan Holmqvist after the fourth goal in favor of Marc Denis. Holmqvist gave up four goals on 21 shots.
Capitals 3, Devils 2 - Jeff Schultz scored 53 seconds into the second period, lifting host Washington and snapping New Jersey's point streak at 10 games.
The Devils lost for the second consecutive night after winning nine straight. They earned a point Sunday during a 1-0 overtime defeat in New York against the Rangers. New Jersey hadn't lost in regulation since another 1-0 defeat Nov. 16 to the New York Islanders.
Red Wings 2, Predators 1 - Tomas Kopecky and Valterri Filppula scored and visiting Detroit beat Nashville for its seventh straight win.
Kopecky opened the scoring 7:10 into the game, firing a one-timer from inside the right circle that beat goalie Dan Ellis. At 15:06, Filppula scored on a penalty shot after he was tripped by Jerred Smithson for a 2-0 lead. Martin Gelinas scored for the Predators.
Stars 5, Oilers 4 - Brenden Morrow's power-play goal in overtime lifted host Dallas past Edmonton.
Sergei Zubov scored and had three assists and Mike Modano notched his 517th career goal for the Stars, extending his career lead among US-born players in goals and points (1,245).
Ducks 4, Blue Jackets 3 - Chris Pronger, playing in his 900th game, scored a power-play goal with 1:45 left in overtime and Corey Perry had two scores to get visiting Anaheim past Columbus.
Kings 4, Canucks 2 - Anze Kopitar scored the go-ahead goal and Jean-Sebastien Aubin made 26 saves, leading host Los Angeles over Vancouver, which allowed more than two goals for the first time in eight games.