Hurricanes take advantage of Leafs’ dormant offense for easy win
The Carolina Hurricanes took advantage of the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs and kept up their strong play this month.
Eric Staal scored twice and Anton Khudobin stopped 34 shots to lead the Hurricanes to a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs on Monday night. Brad Malone and Elias Lindholm also scored as Carolina improved to 6-2-1 in January.
"We weren’t perfect, though we played hard and we competed," Hurricanes first-year coach Bill Peters said. "Back-to-back wins on the road for the first time for us this year, so things are going in the right direction."
Nazem Kadri scored with 5:11 remaining to end Khudobin’s shutout bid and end Toronto’s scoring drought at 162:14. The Maple Leafs, back home after a winless four-game trip, have lost five straight and fell to 1-6-0 since interim coach Peter Horachek replaced Randy Carlyle.
Toronto has scored just twice in the past five games.
"It’s a similar answer that we’ve been saying for now the past five games: We haven’t found a way to put pucks in the net," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "The bottom line is that we had our chances and we’re having a tough time putting the puck in the net. That’s very evident."
The Hurricanes controlled play against the Leafs, chasing starting goalie Jonathan Bernier after he gave up Staal’s first goal in the opening minute of the second period. Bernier gave up three goals on 13 shots, and was replaced by James Reimer — who stopped all 18 shots he faced.
Horachek tried to convince his players to get back at it after falling behind, but it was hard to shake the feeling.
"I get the sense like there’s a big letdown," Horachek said.
Toronto has lost 13 of 16 dating to the inconsistencies that cost Carlyle his job. Horachek has tried to instill a tough, defensive mentality, but his team has been outscored 24-9 since he took over.
And though the Leafs’ overall defensive play may have improved, the results aren’t there.
"When you give up that many chances and you win hockey games (earlier in the season), sometimes that comes back to haunt you," Phaneuf said. "And right now we’re just having a tough time on the other side of the puck because we’ve cut down our chances against but we haven’t been able to put the puck in the net."
By the time the Leafs were down 3-0 in the second period, one fan threw a jersey onto the ice.
"We don’t appreciate that, obviously," winger Phil Kessel said. "We’re trying. I don’t know if people see that. We are trying. I don’t know. We can’t find it right now."
Frustration was evident throughout the game, even from the Hurricanes. Eric Staal got into only his second career NHL fight, with Phaneuf after the Leafs’ captain hit brother Jordan.
Eric Staal capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 1:34 remaining in the game as he wound up and fired a slap shot from close range.
Staal seemed intent to either let the puck drill Phaneuf or the net.
"I was ready," Staal said. "One of those plays where you just react and you’re into the emotion of the game, you’re into the energy and I knew I wanted to get it in so I made sure I got a hold of it."
Malone gave the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead 7:06 into the game. Patrick Dwyer’s shot from the right wing went off Bernier’s pads and right to Malone, who fired the puck into a wide-open net.
Just 41 seconds later, the Leafs were caught flat-footed when Phil Kessel’s pass attempt off a faceoff deflected off Carolina defenseman Andrej Sekera to Lindholm, who finished off the breakaway by beating Bernier to make it 2-0.
NOTES: Kadri’s power-play goal late in the third period ended the Hurricanes’ run of consecutive penalties killed at 36 over 14-plus games. … Reimer could start Wednesday at Ottawa in the final game before the All-Star break. … Forwards Leo Komarov (shoulder) and Troy Bodie (healthy), and defenseman Stephane Robidas (upper-body injury) were scratches for the Leafs. Matt Frattin made his eighth appearance of the season in Bodie’s place. … Winger Alexander Semin and former Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles were healthy scratches for Carolina.