Toronto scored four goals on their first five shots, chased Montreal goalie Carey Price midway through the first period and beat the Canadiens 5-1 Saturday night.
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Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Jay McClement, Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, which has earned at least one point in 12 of its last 13 games (8-1-4). James Reimer stopped 36 shots for the Leafs.
"I call it maturity," Carlyle said. "It's maturity as a team, understanding in hockey games that the momentum can switch on one bounce, one power play, one turnover ... You can't really jump on people when you win 5-1, so as a coach you've got to really be cautious in how you deliver your message and how you get them to understand that there's a different way when the score's lopsided like that.
"You've got to really remain focused 110 percent to make the safe play and make the right play. We did that for a good part of the hockey game."
Just not all of it as Carlyle was also quick to point out that "a lot of breaks went our way."
Despite his concerns, this game was decided early.
Price gave up three goals on four shots and was pulled after just 10 minutes, 25 seconds. Peter Budaj didn't fare much better, giving up a goal on the first shot he faced before finishing with 22 saves.
"I put us behind the 8-ball right off the bat," Price said. "You can't come out with a start like that."
Both coaches believe Price will be able to shake off his rough outing.
"It was a tough night for [Price], but those things happen in your career," Montreal coach Michel Therrien said. "He's a good kid, he cares, he's had a good season, he's got character and he's going to bounce back. I have no doubt about that."
Carlyle added: "He's a world-class goaltender, you don't get many of those evenings from him. ... The next team that plays him, I'm sure, we'll see a different Carey Price."
At the other end, Reimer was razor-sharp for the Leafs.
"We don't ask him to win us games, we just ask him to give us a chance," Carlyle said. "And again tonight he did that."
Kessel, who also had an assist, has five goals and two assists in his last three games. He also raised his career numbers against Montreal to 13 goals and 20 assists in 39 games.
Davis Drewiske scored for Montreal, which remained one point ahead of Boston for the Northeast Division lead and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
While the Leafs won comfortably, both teams had their sloppy moments, with Toronto committing 14 turnovers and Montreal one.
The Canadiens began the day with the fourth-best road record in the league and came in following a 5-1 win at Buffalo on Thursday night that secured a playoff berth.
They were off their game against Toronto as poor goaltending put them behind early. And as the game wore on, they gifted Toronto a string of extra-man rushes.
After getting a high-stick from Montreal's Francis Bouillon less than 2 minutes into the game, Toronto center Nazem Kadri flattened Lars Eller with a bruising check at the boards. He finished the first period in the penalty box after sending Brendan Gallagher flying with his shoulder.
"I didn't think I was getting a couple of touches early so I just played the body as often as I could," Kadri said. "Fortunately, I was able to come up with a couple of pretty big hits and I felt like I got the boys going."
Just 17 seconds after Bouillon went off, Bozak tapped in a pass from James van Riemsdyk for his 12th of the season at 1:50 of the first to cap a nice passing play that started with Kessel at the blue line.
The Leafs got a cheap one at 8:08 when Price let Komarov's shot from a tight angle trickle through his legs.
McClement scored his seventh of the season at 10:25 on a beautiful solo effort, tucking the puck between his legs before sweeping a backhand through Price's legs. Therrien had seen enough and sent in Budaj.
Drewiske trimmed the lead to 3-1 on Montreal's 11th shot, beating Reimer with 6:52 left in the period.
However, Phaneuf restored the three-goal advantage with 2:54 to go in the first, snapping a low screen shot that deflected in off Bouillon for his eighth of the season.
Montreal outshot Toronto 13-5 in the period but trailed 4-1.
Toronto converted on a second 2-on-1 in a one-minute span as van Riemsdyk evaded a sliding Montreal defenseman to slip the puck over to Kessel, who got his 15th of the season at 4:42. The goal came on the Leafs' ninth shot of the night.
Any idea of a Montreal comeback was negated by four minor penalties in the third.
"It's frustrating when you're down 5-1," said Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who had two unsportsmanlike penalties on the night. "It's easy to chirp and talk when you're up 5-1."
It was the fourth of five meetings between the two rivals. Toronto won both earlier games at Montreal's Bell Centre while the Canadiens won the previous matchup on the Leafs' home ice. The teams wrap up the regular season back here on April 27.
- The Leafs were without LW Joffrey Lupul (concussion).
- Toronto C Mikhail Grabovski played after seeing specialists in New York for a stomach ailment.