Paul Maurice was able to breathe a little sigh of relief after the Carolina Hurricanes played their best game of the week Sunday. I am just trying to get on the plane,” the beleaguered coach said with a wry smile after a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Jeff Skinner had a goal and an assist, and Jay Harrison and Jussi Jokinen also scored as the Hurricanes broke a two-game streak of shutouts and won for only the second time in nine games.
They found their offence against Toronto, with captain Eric Staal contributing a pair of assists. Cam Ward had 23 saves for Carolina, which peppered Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens with 41 shots.
This is big,” Staal said. “No one likes the situation we’re in and no one likes to lose. It was nice to have the same type of effort we had against Buffalo (in Friday’s 1-0 loss), and we were rewarded with some goals.”
Phil Kessel scored both goals for the Leafs, giving him an NHL-leading 16 goals and 29 points this season. Carolina has won 12 of the last 17 meetings with Toronto. We scored with plenty of time left,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “We had our chances but couldn’t find a way to finish.”
Carolina led 1-0 after the first period after outshooting the Leafs 10-4, then 2-0 after tying its season high with 19 shots in the second.
“We knew we played a good, solid game the way we wanted to but you have to have something good come from that,” said Maurice. “Everybody was understanding and playing the same game.”
Harrison gave Carolina the lead with 29 seconds left in the first period, picking up a loose puck at the top of the left circle on a rebound of a Skinner shot and blasting it past Scrivens to the glove side. The goal ended a scoring drought of nearly 155 minutes.
Jokinen made it 2-0 on the power play at 7:05 of the second, throwing the puck at the net from the right circle and getting a lucky ricochet off the skate of Luke Schenn. Justin Faulk had the primary assist for his first NHL point on the goal, which snapped Carolina’s 0-for-23 slump on the power play.
Kessel cut it to 2-1 on a 4-on-3 at 4:31 of the third, picking up the loose puck on the left doorstep and slamming it home with Dion Phaneuf on the primary assist.
The Hurricanes got the clincher on a rush with just under seven minutes to go when Skinner followed a rebound of a Staal shot and slid it in on the glove side.
“Everyone wants to win, and the biggest pressure is the pressure you put on yourselves,” Skinner said. “Especially when you’ve been going through what we’ve gone through the last few games. It’s not fun.”
Kessel scored his second on a six-on-five with a minute remaining, with John-Michael Liles getting the assist.