RALEIGH, N.C. – The Carolina Hurricanes played a physical game, scored first, had the lead, but let it slip away, and came up short in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs at PNC Arena on Friday.
Brad Malone’s first goal of the season provided Carolina’s only offense while Cam Ward’s 24-save performance didn’t earn him a win.
Nazem Kadri scored in regulation for Toronto, while Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs’ fifth shooter, secured his team’s fifth win in six games.
“We just gotta keep goin’ – we’re playin’ good,” Kris Versteeg, who assisted on Malone’s goal, said.
“Just a bounce here or there might help…We were still pressin’ right up until the end. We had our looks and chances. They got a goal on a power play and that’s gonna happen. You expect to win every game, but when you don’t give Wardo any run, it’s not gonna help. That kinda showed the first few games this year that we gotta give him a little more run support. We gotta give him some more wins because he’s been keepin’ us in games.”
Head coach Bill Peters and his entire team know that a lack of scoring has been a fundamental reason for not winning games.
Now, add to that list the inability to hold leads, as they’ve done in their last three games.
As a result, Carolina’s current winless streak is now five games – its longest such stretch of the season.
“It opened up as the game went along,” Peters said.
“I think it was close to the vest. I didn’t think there was much room out there, but it opened up in spurts. I think everything was hard-fought. Along the wall, things were hard fought. When it got up to the point, I thought both teams boxed out well. It was a tough game.”
After the opening 10 minutes, the Hurricanes outshot the Leafs 7-4 after working the puck along the points and finding lanes to put the puck on net.
Leafs netminder James Reimer was sharp, making 33 saves to earn his seventh win of the season and fifth in his last five starts.
Toronto challenged Ward early as well, but more off the rush, not maintaining long possession time in the Carolina zone.
Malone made his physical presence known early and often, finishing with seven hits throughout the game, including a bone-cruncher that sent Leafs rookie defensemen Byron Froese airborne before colliding with the side glass and then the ice.
He was bloodied by a cut over his left eye along the helmet line as a result and continued to play on after getting it looked after.
“That’s my role, that’s my job,” Malone said.
“That’s one of my strengths. Especially sitting out four straight, I just wanted to reestablish myself.”
Malone clocked two penalties during the opening period, the first a solo effort for roughing, while the second he served along with Michael Grabner who was called for embellishment as a result of the Carolina forward’s love tap.
Toronto finished 1-for-4 on the power play, but didn’t connect on it until it mattered – late in the third period.
Carolina was afforded two man-advantage opportunities but didn’t convert on either.
The line of Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, and Elias Lindholm hemmed the Leafs defense in for more than a minute in the late stages of the opening period, and eventually Skinner drew a penalty on the rookie D-man Froese.
With 46 seconds remaining, Carolina’s advantage was two as Toronto’s Roman Polak hooked Hurricanes defenseman Ron Hainsey from breaking through on a near breakaway attempt at the Leafs blue line.
The Hurricanes’ inability to score on the power play, the 5-on-3 in particular, was an area that Peters said he would address at practice on Saturday.
Both teams went into the intermission scoreless with the Hurricanes outshooting the Leafs 12-8.
Key defensive plays at both ends kept each team scoreless through the second.
Carolina’s John-Michael Liles made an impressive sliding block to break up a Leafs 2-on-1 between Kadri and James Van Reimsdyk five minutes into the second.
Carolina continued to pucks on Reimer who trapped each one as they came to him.
Ward made a sprawling pad save on Shawn Matthias on his attempted wrap attempt.
Malone decked Froese, who was slow to get up around the 13-minute mark, and brought a rise out of the crowd as play began to pick up between the two teams.
“I wanted to bring some energy to the team and the bench,” Malone said.
“I just tried to establish being physical early, and hopefully that carried through.”
Versteeg hit the post at the 11:08 mark while on a 2-on-1 with Jordan Staal, which was followed by a good forecheck from their line that was defended well by Reimer and his D-men.
The Leafs broke out and Brad Boyes missed on a nice setup from Matt Hunwick around the seven-minute mark.
The closest Carolina came to scoring in the period occurred when McClement put a shot on net that Phaneuf couldn’t handle after Reimer made the save.
The puck eventually got to Gerbe on the other side of the slot area, but while being hooked he couldn’t turn it around on his backhand into what was an open net.
The period continued to be a physical one as both teams eventually dished out 58 total hits.
Jordan Staal streaked down the left wing later in the period, but Polak took him out with a chest-to-chest check and they both slid into the corner boards and play continued on.
With 41 seconds remaining, Lindholm was called for tripping.
Toronto didn’t convert during the early part of its power play and both teams remained scoreless after 40 minutes.
Carolina started the final period in regulation by successfully killing off the rest of Lindholm’s penalty.
Malone then scored with 12:13 remaining when he banked it into the net off Reimer’s pad on a set up pass from defenseman Justin Faulk, as part of a play started by Versteeg.
“I kinda looked pass first and then when all my options were eliminated, I just threw the puck on the net and hoped for either a good rebound or the circumstance that happened,” Malone said.
Emotions ran a little higher as the Leafs pressed to tie the score, and the Hurricanes reciprocated with a tough defensive stand.
Following a pad save by Ward, a scrum ensued as Matthias tried to wack at the puck, but was quickly shoved away by Carolina rookie defenseman Brett Pesce.
As a result, all skaters on the ice tussled and grappled a little, but nothing more.
Each team received offsetting roughing penalties to Pesce Matthias, and played four-a-side.
Lindholm was penalized for a second time, this time for a faceoff violation with 4:20 to play.
Toronto got its opportunity to tie the game and didn’t squander it.
The Leafs threatened quickly with a point shot from Phaneuf that Ward had eyes on to make the stop.
The passing work paid off as Kadri found space and snapped a shot over Ward’s shoulder from the mid-slot and tied the score 1-1 with 3:33 to play.
The goal increased Toronto’s momentum as it chased down every puck relentlessly and with more confidence.
Carolina held on as both teams skated into overtime.
On the Hurricanes first possession, Eric Staal fell, while Faulk overplayed the puck, and left Bozak heading up ice in alone on Ward.
However, Jordan Staal was a stride behind and managed to get a stick on him.
Shortly afterwards, Faulk got a shot off, but Reimer stopped it.
Versteeg, Skinner, and Hainsey then controlled possession.
Hanisey had the best chance to score off the rush, but Reimer stopped it.
Faulk was penalized for a retaliatory slash on Leo Komarov after being hit by the Leafs defenseman with 2:47 to play in the extra period.
Ward made a save on Phaneuf’s shot and Hainsey cleared the puck on the Leafs first try.
A shot from Kadri went wide and Ward then stopped another shot from Phaneuf, and Hanisey cleared it once again.
The Hurricanes successfully killed off the penalty and both teams continued on to the shootout still tied 1-1 as overtime ended.
It was Ward’s and Carolina’s first shootout of the season and they went five rounds before it ended.
After Chris Terry was stopped by Reimer, Peter Holland went top-shelf over Ward’s shoulder to give Toronto a 1-0 advantage.
Carolina’s Jeff Skinner and the Leafs’ P.A. Parenteau were both denied by each goaltender, before Riley Nash scored and Ward made a save on Kadri to even the score at 1-1.
After Lindholm and Bozak couldn’t score on their attempts, Reimer made a blocker save on Gerbe’s wrist shot before Lupul beat Ward clean to his trapper side.
It was another loss and one that brought with it more disappointment for Carolina.
“I think the effort was there throughout the lineup,” Peters said.
“I don’t think it was a lack of effort. At times, maybe execution was tough, but I thought the effort was there.”