ATLANTA — The way Vesa Toskala is playing in goal, it might not matter how long the Toronto Maple Leafs play on the road.
Toskala continued his hot streak with 24 stops and Toronto took advantage of more second-period success to beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-0 on Friday night in the opener of the Maple Leafs’ season-high seven-game road trip.
Toskala posted his second shutout of the season and eighth of his career. He improved to 6-1 in his last seven games and has not allowed more than two goals in any game during the stretch.
The Maple Leafs, who lead the NHL with 44 second-period goals, scored twice in the period following a scoreless opening 20 minutes.
Toronto put the game away with two goals by Alexei Ponikarovsky late in the third period.
Toronto, denied on its first three power plays, scored a short-handed goal on Atlanta’s first opportunity with a man advantage.
After Atlanta goalie Kari Lehtonen left the net to help a teammate behind the left circle, Boyd Devereaux took the puck, quickly skated behind the net before Lehtonen could return and flipped the puck around the right post.
The Maple Leafs took a 2-0 lead midway through the second period on Mats Sundin’s quick shot in front of the net off a pass from Nikolai Antropov.
With 3:19 left in the game, Antropov earned another assist on Ponikarovsky’s long slap shot between the circles. Ponikarovsky scored again with about 2 minutes left to close the scoring.
The Maple Leafs began the long road trip with their third straight road win, including a 4-2 victory at Atlanta on Nov. 29.
Lehtonen made 31 stops for Atlanta.
The Thrashers have lost three in a row and have six shutout losses, tied for the most in the league.
Notes: Toskala is 4-0-1 in five career starts against Atlanta. ... Atlanta D Mark Popovic missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury. ... Ponikarovsky was slow to get up after he was bloodied in a second-period collision with Atlanta’s Bobby Holik. No penalty was called and Ponikarovsky returned to the game to score the two third-period goals. ... Sundin has 539 career regular-season goals, one behind Teemu Selanne for No. 26 all-time.