Khudobin, Staal lead Hurricanes to 4-1 win over Leafs

TORONTO, ONTARIO – Goaltender Anton Khudobin and captain Eric Staal led the Carolina Hurricanes at both ends of the ice in a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Monday.

Khudobin made 34 saves and earned his fifth straight win in as many starts, while Staal scored twice, following up on singles from Brad Malone and Elias Lindholm.

The Hurricanes (16-25-5) won their second game in a row and extended their record in January to 6-2-1 – their best stretch this season.

“We weren’t perfect, but we played hard, we competed,” Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters said.

“Back-to-back wins on the road for us for the first time this year, so things are goin’ in the right direction.”

Malone scored his third goal of the season at 7:06 in the first period with Patrick Dwyer and Jay McClement doing the heavy lifting to set up the opportunity.

Lindholm followed that up just 41 seconds later, finishing a play that defenseman Andrej Sekera queued up for him.

Carolina led 2-0 after the first period, and Staal added to it early in the second.

Staal’s first goal came at the 48-second mark, when he finished a setup from brother Jordan and Jiri Tlusty.

He scored on a backhander that made it through Leafs keeper Jonathan Bernier’s legs, and extended Carolina’s lead to 3-0.

Following the play, Bernier (10 saves on 13 shots) was pulled and made way for James Reimer to come in to tend the net for the rest of the game.

At the other end, Khudobin continued to make several stops to keep the Leafs (22-22-3) off the score sheet.

However, Carolina was unable to maintain Khudobin’s shutout bid before the end of regulation time.

Nazem Kadri picked the corner over the Russian netminder’s shoulder, and scored a power play goal for Toronto with 5:11 remaining in the third period.

While Reimer stopped all 18 shots he faced, Staal scored his second of the game and 15th of the season while the keeper was on the bench for the extra skater as the Leafs tried to cut their deficit further.

Staal tallied the empty-netter while being fronted by Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf, and didn’t hold back as he unleashed a slap shot to ensure the puck would make it across the goal line, even if it had to go through the defenseman.

The two had tussled earlier in the game following a Phaneuf blindside hit on the younger Staal, so there was no love lost between the two as the end of the game neared.

The elder Staal didn’t pay any respect to his opponent in finalizing the score at 4-1 with 1:34 to play and ensured another win for his team.

“He was stickin’ up for a teammate there,” Peters said.

“He did a real good job. I thought that line led the way and did a good job.”

The Hurricanes returned to Raleigh and will be off through the NHL All-Star break and will return to the ice on Jan. 26 to prepare to host the Tampa Bay Lightning at PNC Arena the following day (Jan. 27).

Notes: The Hurricanes dominated over the faceoff dot, finishing 44-25 for the game…Carolina’s penalty kill streak which spanned defending 36 opposing power plays in 14 games, ended on the 37th with Kadri’s power play goal. They hadn’t allowed a power play goal since Dec. 20 against the New York Rangers. The mark tied the team’s previous longest penalty-killing streak of 36 penalties in a row from Nov. 8 to Nov. 24, 2000…Carolina outhit their opponent (27-26) for the first time in nine games and in the New Year since suffering a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 31…Forward Jeff Skinner played in his 300th NHL game, but didn’t record a point to commemorate the occasion.