RALEIGH, N.C. – Quick starts and long and steady finishes are critical to winning games in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Following up a 2-1 win over New Jersey on Sunday, the Carolina Hurricanes posted two quick goals, 22 seconds apart, and finished with two empty-net goals 40 seconds apart.
Add in a power play goal in between and the end-result was a 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at PNC Arena on Wednesday.
“It was a good game,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said matter-of-factly.
“Great first period, but not a great second. I thought we played really well in the third. Just the way we played it. We didn’t sit back, we played it right.”
Hurricanes captain Justin Williams scored his third goal of the season, his second in as many games and also his 100th with the club.
The achievement also placed him in a did-you-know trivia question category as he became the ninth player in NHL history to score at least 100 goals and win the Stanley Cup with multiple franchises.
Williams’ marker came just 22 seconds after defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk’s first of the year slid into the Leafs net following a goalmouth scramble at the 10:56 mark of opening period.
The two goals came about as a result of a grinding and suffocating forecheck and offensive zone time that created 29 shots on goal in one period, a franchise record.
After putting 11 pucks on their former netminder, Curtis McElhinney, during the opening 20 minutes, and trailing 2-0, the Leafs worked harder to even it up, outshooting Carolina 10-2 in the second.
John Tavares cut the difference to one when he picked off a Williams chip pass into the middle of the neutral zone.
The Leafs’ top goal scorer added another, his 14th on the year, when he skated in on McElhinney unopposed and sniped a wrist shot past the keeper’s blocker with 4:30 remaining.
Toronto didn’t back down, but couldn’t connect on chances and not due to lack of effort according to head coach Mike Babcock.
“Oh, we worked,” he said.
“Tough game – you don’t win any races or battles. We weren’t prepared to go for whatever reason, but it’s not like we didn’t have a normal day, normal process, and try to get prepared. But we weren’t prepared.
“They were prepared, they worked, and they were excited. If you don’t win any battles any races, it doesn’t matter how much skill you have.”
Carrying the 2-1 lead into the third, Carolina regained its offensive momentum and pace and continued to test Andersen.
Micheal Ferland scored his 11th goal of the season on the power play when he teed up a one-timer that beat the Toronto netminder between his pads as he slid across in an attempt to square up on the shot from the left faceoff dot.
Andersen did his part as part in making a 43-save effort while suffering the loss against the team that originally drafted him in the 7th round back in 2010.
He got some support in the third when Kasperi Kapanen entered the Hurricanes zone to McElhinney’s left side and labeled the opposite corner as his by snapping the puck against the twine there for his ninth goal of the season.
Looking to play out the final 8:03 of the game with a 3-2 lead, Carolina didn’t relent and helped its keeper earn his fifth win of the season against his former club.
McElhinney made two critical saves down the stretch as the Leafs sent on the extra skater on for Andersen who left his net vacant.
Carolina’s leading scorer Sebastian Aho and rookie Andrei Svechnikov helped to put game firmly out of reach of a Toronto comeback with empty-net goals 40 seconds apart at the 18:42 and 19:22 marks.
“It’s a huge win for us considering where they are in the standings,” McElhinney said.
“Twenty-nine shots in the first period is unbelievable. When you’re putting pucks to the net good things are going to happen. ”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport