The Maple Leafs have gone from a team unable to win two straight to knocking off a pair of division leaders within four days.
But the story behind the victory wove all through last night's scoresheet, from the top where Bryan McCabe's power play pair beat the New York Rangers 2-1, down the page where only four Toronto minor penalties were booked, to the bottom where 21 blocked shots were recorded. That's the second fewest times they've been short-handed in 19 games, and with no calls assessed to a Leafs forward, the skittish club was able to enjoy a rare outing with all four lines intact.
"There was no parade to the box, no need to break up our lines," winger Darcy Tucker said. "It felt more like hockey than a specialty teams affair."
Tomas Kaberle fed partner McCabe for two one-timers past Toronto native Kevin Weekes, while Ed Belfour and the rest of the team held Jaromir Jagr to one goal, his National Hockey League-leading 18th.
Toronto tightened up its team defence to edge the surprise front-runners in the Atlantic Division, after beating the Northeast leading Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. In their previous eight games, the Leafs had been in a puzzling loss-win-loss-win pattern.
But the Leafs, who play fourth-place Boston there tomorrow, will need a third consecutive win to make up ground on the surging Habs and Ottawa Senators in the Northeast.
"They're clearly good teams, they've both had good starts, but we want to walk before we run," Leafs coach Pat Quinn cautioned. "Maybe we're piecing some things together and that's where you start building your teamwork, your trust and put some strings together."
McCabe now has eight goals, seven on the power play, as Toronto moved into first place in that NHL department with a 25.2% success rate.
McCabe nearly undid his great work with an elbow in the third period, but the Leafs killed it.
"I think that's the first time this year we haven't had a penalty in the first five minutes of the game," McCabe said.
"We were flying out there."
McCabe, meanwhile, keeps giving Leafs/Team Canada head coach Quinn plenty of reason to include him on the 23-man roster when Wayne Gretzky announces it next month.