Kessel scores 2, leads Maple Leafs over Hurricanes
Don’t count Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle among those
anxiously awaiting the upcoming Winter Classic – not even after his
club beat the Carolina Hurricanes.
Phil Kessel scored twice, reaching the 20-goal plateau for the
sixth straight season, to help the Maple Leafs top the Hurricanes
5-2 on Sunday night.
The game marked the halfway point of the season for Toronto
(20-16-5) and was its last outing before Wednesday’s outdoor Winter
Classic against Detroit at the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich.
”I wasn’t waving the pom-poms to be involved with it to start
with,” Carlyle said. ”We haven’t played as well as we’d like to
hang our hat on. Our group, we believe, has got lots of room to
grow, so that always put added pressure on. Then you’re much more
under the microscope if you can believe it.
”We’re here to win hockey games, and that’s the most important
Toronto has earned points in five straight games.
Nikolai Kulemin, Paul Ranger and Dion Phaneuf, with an empty-net
goal with 8 seconds remaining, also scored for Toronto.
Nathan Gerbe and Justin Faulk had goals for Carolina (14-16-9),
which has lost five straight including two in overtime.
Jonathan Bernier made 41 saves as Carolina outshot Toronto
Tyler Bozak returned to the Maple Leafs’ top line after a
12-game absence due to an oblique injury. He showed off his
playmaking skills with three assists and made an important
backcheck to thwart a Hurricanes threat.
Maple Leafs forward David Clarkson went to the dressing room in
the second period after apparently hitting the boards, but returned
in the third and smashed Tuomo Ruutu to the ice.
”Probably the best period of hockey he’s played for us,”
The Maple Leafs’ previous four games were shootouts – a
club-record streak that featured two wins and two losses.
Coming into the game, Carolina had only won one of eight, a
stretch that featured four overtime losses.
”We had enough chances to win a hockey game,” Carolina coach
Kirk Muller said. ”The chances were there. They scored and we
Carlyle agreed that his club had a loose performance.
”I thought at times we seemed like we were overmatched in a lot
of areas,” he said.
The Hurricanes followed a popular, simple strategy against
Toronto – dumping the puck in and forcing the Leafs to play
”We haven’t been able to handle that or manage the game
properly in that area, and we have to get better at it,” Carlyle
After surviving a poor start against Buffalo to win via a
shootout Friday, it seemed like more of the same Sunday for the
Leading the NHL in giveaways with 475 going into the game,
Toronto had 11 turnovers in the first two periods.
Toronto also didn’t manage a shot until 11-plus minutes into the
first period in which the Maple Leafs wobbled at times in their
A power play helped put the Leafs in the shot column, and
Toronto gradually began to spend time in the Carolina end.
The Leafs went ahead after a faceoff when Bozak dug the puck out
to Kessel, whose backhand from behind the goal-line went in off
goalie Cam Ward for his 19th of the season at 16:56.
It was perhaps payback for the odd goal that gave the Hurricanes
a 3-2 win in Toronto in October when a bad bounce off the boards on
a shoot-in caromed in off Bernier with the Maple Leafs thinking
icing might be called.
Gerbe tied it at 1:36 of the second period after talking a pass
from Alexander Semin in the corner and beating Bernier from near
the faceoff dot. It was the sixth point in six games for the
Carolina’s Manny Malhotra hit the goal post midway through the
second period as Toronto found itself penned in its end.
Toronto then pulled ahead with two goals in 76 seconds.
A pretty passing play between Kessel and van Riemsdyk made it
2-1 at 13:42, with van Riemsdyk sending the puck back to Kessel
Kulemin then beat Ward with a shot from the top of the circle at
14:58 to make it 2-2, prompting Carolina coach Kirk Muller to call
a timeout. It was Kulemin’s fifth of the season.
A 4-on-3 helped Carolina as Faulk scored his third of the season
with a slap shot with 2:17 remaining in the period to close the gap
Ranger added an insurance goal at 4:58 of the third. It was the
defenseman’s second goal of the season and the 100th point of his
Ward’s start was only his second since Dec. 10. Justin Peters
had started five of six.
For Toronto, it was Bernier’s 28th appearance of the season,
compared to 18 for James Reimer.
Bernier has started nine of 15 games, with Reimer pulled during
two of his six starts during that stretch.
The Hurricanes had won 17 of the last 24 meetings, including
five after regulation before Sunday. Carolina hasn’t lost a season
series to the Leafs since 2006-07.
NOTES: The return of Bozak prompted the Maple Leafs to assign
forward Jerred Smithson to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. … Eric
Staal played his 730th game for the Hurricanes, tying Glen Wesley
for the most with the franchise since the team relocated from