Staff photo by Chris Seward
RALEIGH — It was quite a comeback, quite a victory for the Carolina Hurricanes, who fought past the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 Sunday at the RBC Center.
Trailing 1-0 after the first period and 3-1 deep into the second, the Canes surged to a 4-3 lead after two periods and added a goal early in the third for a 5-3 cushion.
The Canes' second-period highlights: two power-play goals, Dwight Helminen's first NHL goal, a hustling goal by Tuomo Ruutu and an assist by Sergei Samsonov, his first point of the season.
Chad LaRose's goal early in the third made it 5-3, but Niklas Hagman's goal at 8:44 cut the Canes' lead to 5-4. But Michael Leighton was strong in net down the stretch and Eric Staal's empty-netter sealed it.
"I thought in the second half we came alive," Canes coach Peter Laviolette said. "We started skating better. We generated offense. We were pressing down in the offensive zone. We picked up a little bit better defensively."
The Maple Leafs, coming off a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers, had a 3-1 lead with four minutes left in the second and seemingly had taken command. Mikhail Grabovski's two goals pushed Toronto two in front.
"I thought we were doing a great job," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "Two or three minutes into the period, we had a two-goal lead. Then a couple of bad penalties and that was pretty much it."
The Leafs picked up back-to-back penalties. And while the Canes didn't score on their 30 seconds of 5 on 3, Ray Whitney scored a power-play goal at 16:10 just after the first penalty ended.
"It got us going," Laviolette said. "The energy in the building and some life, you know. We needed to get a spark.
"We just couldn't get it to drop on the 5 on 3, so to pick it up right away and score on the 5 on 4, I thought, was very important."
Helminen scored at 17:17 to make it 3-3, chipping the puck past Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph for his first NHL goal. And when Ruutu wheeled around the net, turned and fired a shot past Joseph, it was 4-3 -- three goals in 3:20.
"It was a nice goal," Laviolette said of Ruutu's score. "It showed a lot of patience. We've been trying to kick it out to the points. We just had a turnover where the puck went down and they ended up scoring because we didn't use the points.
"So, the two options are to turn, fire it off the cycle or to kick it back to the points. He was able to get enough of an angle to come out of the cycle and get his head up and have a great shot."
The Canes' Joe Corvo scored 34 seconds into the second for a 1-1 tie. Corvo's shot hit Joseph, with the puck bouncing off the shin pad of defenseman Jeff Finger and past Joseph.
Samsonov had an assist on the goal, his first point of the season. ...
The Canes' Patrick Eaves left the game with an illness. ...
Grabovski's first goal, at 7:41 of the second, made it 2-1. His second, at 11:38, pushed the lead to 3-1.
Toronto defenseman Ian White, playing his first game of the season, scored his first goal of the season White's goal at 6:28 of the first gave the Leafs a 1-0 lead after the period. White settled the puck in the slot and wristed a top-shelf shot past Leighton
The Canes seemed a step slow and did a lot of chasing in the first period. Carolina had one shot on goal in the first 14 minutes -- by Wade Brookbank -- before Eric Staal's shot in close. The Canes had six shots in the first period.
Canes center Matt Cullen was out with an apparent groin injury. Patrick Dwyer was called up from Albany as a fill-in on the roster and played more than 14 minutes.
"Everybody had a part of this one," LaRose said.