RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes ended their six-game losing streak by beating the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Chris Terry, Justin Faulk, Andrej Sekera and Elias Lindholm all contributed goals while goaltender Cam Ward made 25 saves to earn his ninth win of the season.
Ward’s performance was highlighted by many critical stops that kept Toronto’s top scorers – Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, and Tyler Bozak – off the score sheet for the entire 60 minutes.
Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf scored the Leafs’ lone goal during the second period, but it couldn’t spark more success against a Carolina team that finished scoring two-thirds more goals in three periods than it did during its previous six games.
“It’s huge,” Faulk said of the victory over the Leafs who were undefeated in their previous six games.
“Obviously, we like to win. It’s a much better feeling in the room. To be able to get that goal early from Terry gave the boys a good confidence boost and made it a bit easier to play out there.”
Right from the opening faceoff, Carolina looked to have a quick pace to its play and caught Toronto off-guard.
Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier, who made 33 saves, was tested early and often and kept Carolina aggressively seeking to take the early lead.
That was what head coach Bill Peters was hoping would happen.
“Finally got on the board early, right?” Peters said.
“Playing with the lead made it a little easier. We had two in the first – that’s nice.”
The first 10 minutes of play went scoreless as both Ward and Bernier made numerous pad and glove saves at both ends of the rink.
Lindholm came the closest to opening the scoring at the 9:48 mark as he shot the puck past Bernier while linemate Jeff Skinner was tied up in the crease.
However, the vulcanized rubber disc slid across the blue paint parallel to the goal line and not past it.
Blocked from the puck on the other side of Bernier, Lindholm raised his stick thinking he had scored – but he hadn’t.
Terry eventually opened the game’s scoring with his fifth of the season at 11:54, the recipient of a crease feed from Eric Staal who finished the game with two assists.
After winning the draw to Bernier’s left, the Hurricanes cycled the puck into the corner as Nathan Gerbe, who also finished the game with two helpers, slid it behind the net to Staal.
The Carolina captain then backed his defenseman up from the goal line before putting the puck towards the net.
The puck hit Bernier’s left pad, but before he could react, Terry had already put it in the net.
Faulk extended the lead to 2-0, scoring his sixth of the season, a shorthanded marker just under two minutes later.
It was an play that Sekera initiated in the Carolina zone when he tipped the puck up to Patrick Dwyer past a pinching Leafs defenseman, Morgan Reilly, at the top of the right circle.
The Hurricanes’ leading scorer finished off the cross-ice pass from Dwyer on a two-on-one that slipped past Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, and caught Bernier sliding across his crease to stop the shot, but to no avail.
Carolina held onto the 2-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Ward continued to keep a hot hand, flashing the leather on back-to-back shot attempts from Peter Holland and Van Riemsdyk within the first three minutes of play in the second period.
“The guys played great,” Ward said.
“They got off to a good start and to be able to score the first two goals, obviously was a relief.”
Bernier was equal to the task in stoning Carolina forwards Jay McClement first, then Justin Shugg, and finally Faulk on an ensuing Canes possession a minute later.
Ward then made a pad save on Kessel and continued to stymie the Leafs, making the biggest stop of the period with just over five minutes remaining when he poke-checked the puck away from Bozak on a one-on-one attempt.
Bozak couldn’t get a clean deke and shot on net as Sekera was draped all over him.
At the same time, Ward got his paddle on the puck and it flipped into the air and out of harm’s way.
A Carolina turnover in the neutral zone soon resulted in Toronto’s first goal of the game coming at 16:55.
Holland picked the puck up outside the Carolina blue line and carried it into the right corner before circling and passing it to Phaneuf at the opposite point.
From there, the Leafs captain wired a snap shot that beat Ward clean while Daniel Winnik and David Clarkson created traffic in and around the keeper.
The goal brought the Leafs to within one, trailing 2-1.
Toronto maintained its momentum early in the third period, but Ward held his ground and Carolina was able to fend off the Leafs’ repeated cycling and shot attempts for the first five minutes.
Bernier stayed just as sharp and denied Lindholm again on another opportunity to score during a scramble in the low slot.
Nearing the midpoint of the period, Carolina finally regained the pace it had played with during the first two periods and looked to push its lead back up to two goals.
With 12 minutes remaining, Staal was called for hooking and pulling down Joffrey Lupul, and gave Toronto an opportune man-advantage with which to tie the game.
It was a good penalty to take as it had denied the Leafs forward a clean shot at a rebound off Ward’s right pad – the result of a Kessel shot that came from the opposite wing.
The Leafs’ power play was soon negated however as defenseman Cody Franson was called for interference – knocking Gerbe down at the Toronto blue line.
Shortly after, Carolina took advantage of its third power play opportunity as Sekera scored his first of the season with 8:55 remaining.
The Hurricanes worked the puck from the hash marks along the left boards with Gerbe setting the play up with a pass back to the point.
The puck ended up on Faulk’s stick and he then slid it over to Sekera who cradled the puck once, twice, and moved closer to the right faceoff dot before releasing the shot that beat Bernier high and put Carolina ahead 3-1.
It was Carolina’s lone goal with the man-advantage, finishing 1-for-3 on the power play while killing off all three penalties it took.
“Special teams are important in this league,” Sekera said.
“Either it’s penalty kill or power play, and I think we did a pretty good job on both of them tonight.”
For the rest of the game, the Leafs hovered around the Hurricanes zone trying valiantly to beat Ward.
Toronto pulled Bernier for the extra attacker with 2:42 remaining.
However, Ward along with his defensemen deflected passes and blocked shot attempts which eventually generated Carolina’s final scoring play of the game.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey head-manned a pass to Staal who faked shooting on the empty net himself before making a cross-ice pass to Lindholm who scored his eighth goal of the season with 1:24 remaining.
“With the lead it makes a difference,” Staal said of the team’s sudden scoring burst that helped to end its losing streak.
“It makes you play not as much a pressing game and doesn’t feel like every mistake you make is gonna’ end up in a wrong result. You got the lead, you played well, and feel good about it – playing a little bit more relaxed, more comfortable and confident with the puck. Confidence is huge and tonight we got it early and stuck with it. It was a good win.”
Ward added, “you know it’s no secret that we’ve been tryin’ to score some goals and it hasn’t been goin’ our way lately; but tonight you could sense a little bit more confidence and more belief that good things would go our way.”
Notes: Faulk’s goal was his second shorthanded tally of the season making him the first defenseman to record two in a season since Mike Commodore did so in 2006-2007. Additionally, the goal was his third in 211 Carolina/NHL career games, placing him in a tie for second in franchise history in shorthanded goals by a defenseman (Joel Quenneville – 457 games), and one behind Mark Howe (4 in 213 games)…Prior to the game, the Hurricanes dealt defenseman Jay Harrison to the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The transaction ended the defenseman’s six-year tenure with the team during which he accumulated 68 points (21g, 47a) in 317 games…Carolina’s win was it’s seventh in eight games over the Leafs at PNC Arena…The Hurricanes’ ability to score four or more goals against the Leafs continued, now having done so in 13 of the two teams’ last 23 games against one another.