Too Little Too Late - Hurricanes Defeat Leafs 3-2
Playing their third game in four nights, without many regulars appeared to be an obstacle that the Toronto Maple Leafs could not overcome. Following a spirited and galvanizing performance against the Washington Capitals Saturday night, the Leafs were completely outplayed and absent for the first 40 minutes of tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Although Carolina dominated possession outshooting the Leafs 29-12 through the first two periods, they still only had a 2-0 lead. Jay Harrison scored with less than 30 seconds left in the first period, and Jussi Jokinen banked a centering attempt off of Luke Schenn’s foot for the second goal. The Leafs were lackluster and unengaged through the opening two periods, and yet were still in the game thanks mostly to goaltender Ben Scrivens.
With the Hurricanes having a rough start to the season, and in the midst of a 2-8-0 funk, the Leafs were one shot from getting back into this game. Of course Phil Kessel took that shot and dragged the Leafs back into this contest. Being completely left alone for the first two periods of the game, Cam Ward made a couple of big saves following the Kessel goal. Tim Connolly had an assist on Kessel’s goal and had a great night creating offense for the blue and white. With less than 7 minutes left in the one goal game that the Leafs were now controlling, both defenseman Cody Franson and John Michael Liles decided to jump into the rush. The Hurricanes took advantage of the two absent defenders and Eric Staal broke in on a breakaway. With the game on his stick the struggling all-star was stopped by Ben Scrivens. However, no Leaf was able to pick up the trailing Jeff Skinner and the sniper calmly potted the rebound past a helpless Scrivens to restore the two goal advantage. Kessel though would not let the Leafs go quietly on the night. Following another big Ward save on Nikolai Kulemin, Kessel emerged from the penalty box, and with one minute exactly left in the third period Kessel deposited his second goal of the game. The goal was Kessel’s league leading 16th. The Leafs pressed for the final minute, but the struggling Canes were able to hold on for the two points.
Yes, the Leafs may have been tired on the night. And yes, they are decimated by injuries and playing with a backup goalie, but the effort that was on display tonight was unexcusable. The Leafs were outbattled in every area of the ice by a team that was ripe for the taking. Had the Leafs played the first two periods the same way they played the third then they’d be in first place in their division and leading the Eastern Conference. Tonight’s loss against the Hurricanes marks the second time this season the Leafs threw away points on a Sunday to a beatable opponent (the Leafs dropped a 3-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators on October 23). Scrivens had a good night stopping 38 of 41 shots on the night. While Connolly finished with 2 assists on the night. The Leafs fourth line of Orr – Dupuis – Rosehill played around 5 minutes. Considering the Leafs were a tired team playing their third game in four nights it’s ridiculous to have a fourth line that can’t play. Would it not make sense to play four lines? If Wilson can’t trust that line to play minutes than they should call up some grinders (Darryl Boyce, Ryan Hamilton, Mike Zigomanis) that can provide a solid contribution.
Men of the Match
Leafs: Tim Connolly – Although Kessel finished with two goals, the former Sabre was a buzzsaw in the third period. His speed and stickhandling almost brought the Leafs back singlehandedly. Was absolutely robbed by Ward once, and was unfortunate to have the puck roll off of his stick seconds before the Hurricanes scored their third goal.
Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner – Scored the game winning goal, and was a pest most of the night. He is an annoying little player to face, and he is quite adept at drawing penalties. Constantly moves his feet and never gives up on the play. Skinner also added an assist on Harrison’s opening goal.
Millenism of the Night
During four on four play “The Leafs need to be careful, the Hurricanes have scored five shorthanded goals this season”
Next Game: The Leafs head to St.Petersburg to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday night.