Staff photo by Chris Seward
For so many reasons, the Hurricanes and coach Paul Maurice needed a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Canes climbed out of a 4-0 deficit, and Maurice nearly beat his former team.
But Toronto denied Carolina and hung on for a 6-4 win at the RBC Center Thursday.
In ending their four-game losing streak, the Leafs handed the Hurricanes their fourth straight loss.
The Canes erased a four-goal deficit for the first time since Jan. 7, 2000, but fell anyways when Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle fired off of Pavel Kubina’s pass on the power play with less than six minutes left in the game.
It was the Canes’ first four-game losing streak since last season, when they lost four games in a row in January.
The Leafs entered the game having lost eight of their last 10 games.
And there was banter between Maurice and the Toronto media, who fired several questions at him after the morning skate. Maurice had said he wished the Leafs would lose for 10 years. Maurice was fired by the Leafs at the end of last season after two losing seasons at the helm.
The Canes, reeling from their longest losing streak of the season, now have four games on the road beginning Saturday against the Buffaloe Sabres, who the Canes have been sparring with for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Then the Canes have games against Toronto, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers.
And to make matter worse, Tim Gleason, one of the team’s top defenders, left the game with another ankle injury in the final two minutes. He had just returned after missing a few games, and Thursday was his bobblehead night.
The Leafs entered the game last in the NHL in penalty killing, but they killed the Hurricanes’ only power play in the first period.
And then Toronto capitalized on their only power play of the first period when defenseman Ian White fired a slapshot from the left circle. The Canes appeared to be on the way to killing the penalty, with Carolina goalie Cam Ward getting a couple of saves with a crowd bunched up in front of the net.
But the puck was poked out of the crowd to White who fired with 31 seconds left on the power play.
Then the Canes gave up three goals in the second period before they even got on the board.
Winger Jason Blake scored first, less than two minutes into the period.
Then forward Niklas Hagman made the score 3-0 five seconds past the half-way mark of the game on an assist from Nik Antropov.
Blake scored again about five minutes later, taking over Dominic Moore’s shot, who had been fed by Jiri Tlusty.
The Canes still tried to make a game of it, with forward Matt Cullen scoring with less than two minutes left in the period on assists from Anton Babchuk and Scott Walker.
Canes winger Tuomo Ruutu cut the lead to 4-2, firing from the right circle on the pass from Eric Staal.
The Canes had a 55-second two-man advantage at the 4:10 mark, and Eric Staal scored on the right wing. He was the recipient of a good pass from Joe Corvo and Ray Whitney also earned an assist.
After Kaberle’s go-ahead power play goal, the Leafs scored an empty-netter in the closing seconds.
Tomas Kaberle put the Leafs ahead and then Jason Blake added the empty netter to seal Toronto's 6-4 victory over the Hurricanes.
Maple Leafs 4, Hurricanes 4 (third period):
After falling behind 4-0, the Canes get four goals of their own from Matt Cullen, Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal and Scott Walker. Staal's goal was the only power play goal, with a two-man advantage.
And Walker's goal came at the 8:40 mark of the third period. ...
Just past the halfway point of the game, forward Niklas Hagman puts Toronto up 3-0, cleaning up Nik Antropov's work in front of the net. ...
Left wing Jason Blake made it 2-0 less than two minutes in. He scored an unassisted goal, wrapping around the net from the left, stunning the Canes.
Maple Leafs 1, Hurricanes 0 (first intermission):
The Canes out-shot the Leafs 12-4, but Toronto's Ian White scored the only goal of the first period. Both teams had a single power play each, but it was White who capitalized, despite the Leafs being last in the NHL on the penalty kill.
Maple Leafs 1, Hurricanes 0 (first period):
The Leafs score first when Ian White fires a slapshot from the left circle on the power play from Scott Walker's roughing penalty. The Canes looked like they were on their way to killing the penalty, and Cam Ward had a couple of saves with a crowd bunched up in front of the net.
But Matt Stajan got the puck got out to White, who fired and scored with 31 seconds left on the power play. It was White's sixth goal this season and second against the Canes. Note: the assist was changed to Blake early in the second period. ...
Here's the Canes' starting line: Sergei Samsonov, Rod Brind'Amour, Justin Williams, Tim Gleason, Joe Corvo. Cam Ward in the crease.