RALEIGH, N.C. – It was a battle of the young guns when the Carolina Hurricanes and the Toronto Maple Leafs faced off at PNC Arena on Saturday.
Led by rookie Sebastian Aho, Carolina hosted fellow NHL top-scoring rookies Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, along with the rest of the Leafs into a high-paced matchup that kept the crowd of 12,328 in attendance on the edge of their seats throughout.
“I thought it was a good hockey game,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said.
“There was some really good pace and a lot of skill both ways. I thought some guys on both teams had really good nights.”
Aho, Matthews and Nylander put shots on net, but didn’t produce any goals on the night.
Victor Rask and Tuevo Teravainen notched goals for Carolina while goaltender Cam Ward made 23 saves in the losing effort.
At the other, Toronto netminder Frederik Andersen had to contend with a shelling from the Hurricanes who unloaded 38 shots on him.
It was a physical game too with 42 combined hits dished out, one of which claimed an early victim in Carolina’s Valentin Zykov who went flying into the boards after getting thrown by Leafs defenseman Roman Polak at the 37-second mark.
The rookie forward was playing in only his second career NHL game, following a one-goal performance in Carolina’s 4-3 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday.
After the collision, he proceeded to the dressing room and didn’t return for the remainder of the game, and was listed with an upper-body injury (likely shoulder).
Rask opened the game’s scoring with his 15th goal of the season at 8:59 of the first period.
“I thought it was a good game – we had a lot of shots,” Rask said.
“I had a D-man screen the goalie and shot it between his legs, and it went in.
Mitch Marner initiated the Leafs offense by tallying a goal that matched Rask’s just 53 seconds after to tie the game 1-1.
Still tied at the beginning of the second, Teravainen’s 13th goal of the year, a power play marker, put Carolina back ahead 45 seconds in.
James Van Riemsdyk scored an unassisted goal at 7:37 and tied it on a well-placed snap shot over Ward’s blocker that made it around an attempted shot-block from Hurricanes defenseman Klas Dahlbeck.
Once again, both sides remained tied at the end of the period and didn’t slow their pace during the next one.
Andersen and Ward were kept busy throughout as both teams sought to gain the lead into the dying minutes of play of regulation.
In overtime, led by Rask, Carolina dominated puck possession for the first few minutes as he, Teravainen, and defenseman Noah Hanifin buzzed around the Toronto net.
However, only putting one shot on Andersen, a turnover by the Swedish forward just inside the Toronto blue line eventually provided the Leafs with the opportunity they needed.
Morgan Reilly skated with the puck deep in the Hurricanes zone, marked by Rask who didn’t have a chance to change as play transitioned.
After skating past and around Ward’s net to the right sideboards, the Toronto defensemen stopped, and while Rask turned in the other direction, cut towards the top of the slot before letting a low wrist shot go.
While Rask reached to try to block the shot, the puck made it past him, eluded Ward and ended up in the net, and gave the Leafs the overtime win.
“I had a couple of chances there, but I couldn’t put it in the net,” Rask said.
“Then my guy (Reilly) scored, so it’s my bad. I was on for a little long, but I felt good. My guy shaked me off a little bit and scored, so it was my bad.”
Posting points in consecutive games, particularly after enduring a significant multi-game drought, Rask felt he was working hard to increase his production.
“I’ve been trying to shoot more and more, and when you put the puck on the net, it’s gonna go in sometime.”
In hearing about Rask owning the losing result as his, Peters thought his center had nothing to feel bad about.
“I hope he plays like that again,” Peters said.
“I thought he played very well, so he did a good job. I like the fact he had more pace to his game. They’re a very quick team.”