Montreal Canadiens goaltender David Aebischer reacts as Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Jeff O\'Neill (left) skates to congratulate defenceman Bryan McCabe (24) on his goal during first period NHL action in Toronto on Saturday. (CP PHOTO/Frank Gunn)
Kaberle had a goal and two assists Saturday night and the Toronto Maple Leafs took advantage of Montreal's penalty troubles in a 5-1 win over the rival Canadiens.
The Czech blue-liner has 17 points (7-9) in 19 games, two more than Chris Pronger in Anaheim.
"I've been saying for a long time that I think he's one of the best defencemen in the NHL," said McCabe, who also had a big night with two goals and an assist. "He's been on quite a roll since that Montreal game (Oct. 28)."
Kaberle has points in eight straight games, a remarkable 15 to be exact.
"I'm happy that things are going like that lately but it's a long season," Kaberle said. "The big thing is that the team is winning and playing well right now."
Kaberle had a career-high 67 points last season but only nine of those were goals. His career-high is 11 goals in 2002-03 and he's easily on pace to eclipse that with seven already on the season. For years fans at the Air Canada Centre yelled "shoot, shoot" when Kaberle had the puck at the point but almost always he'd prefer to pass. He's been forced to shoot more often this season because opponents are paying special attention to McCabe on power plays to try and eliminate his powerful shot.
"It's frustrating for him," Kaberle said. "He's got a guy standing three feet from him. So I've got to take what's there."
Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov also scored for the Leafs (11-5-3), who won their fourth straight and second in three meetings with the Habs this season.
Unlike the first two games between the two teams, this one didn't need a shootout and wasn't nearly as entertaining. It was over after 40 minutes, the Leafs scoring three times in the second period to go up 4-1 thanks in large part to five minor penalties called against the Canadiens.
Montreal took eight penalties to Toronto's three.
"We created those (penalties)," said Montreal head coach Guy Carbonneau. "We turned the puck over too many times in our own zone. For 15 games now, every game, we have way more penalties than the teams on the other side. It's either us that have to adjust, or the other teams are way better than we are."
Captain Saku Koivu scored for the Canadiens (8-4-3), who looked lethargic in their first game since Tuesday. The Habs also didn't have a morning skate due to a 2 p.m. American Hockey League game at the Air Canada Centre.
"We weren't in the game," said Koivu. "They played well, the whole team, but we just didn't show up."
J.S. Aubin stopped 25 shots to record his second consecutive win against Montreal.
The Leafs lost centre Michael Peca in the second period. He didn't return after taking a puck in the face and bleeding profusely en route to the dressing room.
"I had a visor on but it hit the part of my face that wasn't protected," Peca said through a fat lip after the game. And don't even ask how many stitches were needed to repair the damage.
"(The trainer) said he stopped counting after a while," said Peca, who won't miss any time.
McCabe opened the scoring 11:21 into the first period with the Leafs on a 5-on-3 power play, his blast of a one-timer beating David Aebischer top corner.
Koivu tied it at 14:34 on the prettiest goal of the night, finishing off a tic-tac-toe play after a nice feed from rookie Guillaume Latendresse, a goal that drew cheers from the hundreds of Habs fans among the crowd of 19,501.
Stajan poked in a rebound just as a Montreal penalty ended to give Toronto a 2-1 lead 9:27 into the second period. Kaberle's power-play rocket beat Aebischer to make it 3-1 at 13:39 and Antropov surprised the Montreal goalie with a wrist shot just inside the blue-line. That was it for Aebischer, who got the hook in favour of Cristobal Huet.
McCabe beat Huet with another monster shot on yet another Toronto power play with just over five minutes to go.
Notes: This year's Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, Patrick Roy, Dick Duff and Harley Hotchkiss, were honoured before the game. The late Herb Brooks, also going into the Hall on Monday, was represented by his son Dan Brooks ... Both teams are banged up right now, the Habs missing star winger Chris Higgins (ankle, out five weeks) and defencemen Mathieu Dandenault (hamstring, could be back next week) and Francis Bouillon (knee, possible December return). The Leafs were missing starting goalie Andrew Raycroft (groin, may return Thursday), captain Mats Sundin (elbow, 3-4 weeks), and defencemen Staffan Kronwall (ankle, day to day) and Andy Wozniewski (shoulder, three months). Defenceman Pavel Kubina is at home in the Czech Republic with his partner and newborn baby ... Montreal plays at Ottawa on Monday before going to Florida to face the Lightning on Wednesday and the Panthers on Thursday ... The Leafs are off until Thursday's game at Boston.