TORONTO -- With 30 games left in the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes can’t afford to slip.
That’s what they did Thursday night in one of their more regrettable losses of the season.
The Canes slipped and the Toronto Maple Leafs made them pay in a 3-0 shutout at the Air Canada Centre.
The Hurricanes (25-21-6) were trying to keep pace or maybe pass the Atlanta Thrashers, who’ve held onto the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot for weeks.
Luckily for the Canes, the Thrashers fell to the Calgary Flames Thursday; But a Carolina win would have put them a point ahead of Atlanta.
Instead, the Hurricanes were out-shot early and failed to capitalize on several power plays, none more glaring than a two-man advantage in the second period.
It was a scoreless affair near the mid-way point of the second period, but Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur broke the stalemate at the 7:28 mark of the period with a wrist shot that found the upper right corner of the net.
The Canes had their chances minutes later after a pair of Toronto penalties set up 1:36 of a two-man advantage.
Despite the Canes firing six shots on the power play, Toronto goalie James Reimer made the only save he needed to make, as four of the other shots were blocked and one was sent wide, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
The Toronto center Darryl Boyce made it 2-0 after beating Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen along the boards deep in the Carolina end of the ice. Boyce wristed his third goal of the season at the 14:52 mark of the second period.
Carolina had another power play late in the second period, but Toronto killed it, with Reimer denying a backhand chance by Carolina forward Sergei Samsonov.
Carolina forward Chad LaRose broke away in the final minute of the second period, but Reimer turned away LaRose’s backhander.
The Hurricanes made another run at the Leafs in the third period, attempting to steal back momentum, but a wrist shot from Toronto forward Kris Versteeg found net at the 4:25 mark and put the Leafs up 3-0.
Earlier in the day, Carolina coach Paul Maurice likened Carolina’s recent contests at Toronto to “a dog’s breakfast,” despite the Canes finding a way to beat Toronto.
The Hurricanes hadn’t lost to the Leafs (21-25-5) in Toronto since Jan. 15, 2008, a game that Maurice was still coaching the Leafs.
The Hurricanes have now lost six of their last 10 games. Two wins before the All-Star break have now been followed with two losses since then.