Game Analysis: Maple Leafs At Hurricanes

It had been more than two games since the Carolina Hurricanes had scored a goal, but Sunday the Canes took advantage of two periods of lackluster play from the Toronto Maple Leafs and held on for a 3-2 win at the RBC Center, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner each finished with two points, Jay Harrison scored against his former team, and rookie Justin Faulk got his first NHL point as Carolina improved to 7-11-3 (17 points) and remain 14th in the Eastern Conference.

Three Observations

1. Faulk not only got his first NHL point Sunday, but he made a statement that he belongs in the top six even once injured Joni Pitkanen returns. Only his D partner, Harrison (22:13), logged more ice time than Faulk (21:41) against the Leafs, and he finished with three hits, two shots and a blocked shot. Faulk also finished plus-1, his first plus rating of his career. After going minus-6 in his first three NHL games (minus-2 in each), he is now plus-1 in two games since his recent recall.

2. For all of Carolina's perceived third-period collapses this season, the team has still won every game it has led going into the third. The Canes improved to 7-0 when leading after two and 5-4-2 when scoring first. The Hurricanes are winless when trailing after one (0-7) or two periods (0-7-2).

3. With 16 wins on 21 draws, Staal moved above 50 percent in the faceoff circle on the season with 218 wins to 212 losses (50.7 percent). Jussi Jokinen is 23rd in the NHL at 54.6 percent after winning eight of 10 against the Leafs, while Brandon Sutter remains just under 50 percent (49.3 percent) after winning nine of 19 Sunday. The improved faceoffs haven't necessarily translated to better play and puck possession (26th in shots against with 32 per game, 17th in shots for with 29.6 per game), but the team's 49.4 winning percentage ranks a respectable 18th in the NHL.

Number To Know

3.5 — Penalties drawn per 60 minutes for Skinner, second in the NHL among players with at least 10 games played. Philadelphia's Zac Rinaldo — who the Canes will face tonight — is drawing 6.4 per 60 minutes, but he is averaging just 5:47 a night and played a total of 86:59 on the year. Skinner led the NHL last season among those who played at least half of the NHL schedule, drawing 2.6 penalties per 60 minutes. Skinner got hooking calls against Dion Phaneuf and Matt Frattin Sunday, the latter leading to Carolina's first power play goal in seven games.

Plus

Jay Harrison — Last year Harrison had the looks of a No. 6 or depth defenseman at best. But the more Harrison plays, the more he earns his place as a full-time NHLer. Harrison got his second goal of the season Sunday, snapping a wrister past Ben Scrivens to give the Canes a 1-0 lead late in the first period. He is now tied with Pitkanen for the team lead in points among blueliners with eight, plus has 25 hits and 48 blocked shots (team-high four on Sunday, making him tied for sixth in the NHL) while logging 19:33 minutes a night.

Minus

Alexei Ponikarovsky — It was a top-to-bottom solid effort against a team that looked like it was lacking jump on the back end of a back-to-back, but Ponikarovsky's third-period penalty gave the Leafs life with less than 16 minutes left in the game. With the teams at four-on-four after Joe Colborne and Chad LaRose took matching minors, Ponikarovsky was called for elbowing when he haphazardly hit Joffrey Lupul high on the forecheck. The Leafs took advantage when Phil Kessel scored on the ensuing 4-on-3 to bring Toronto within one, 2-1. It was good to see Ponikarovsky so physical in the game (team-high five hits), but this penalty gave Toronto a chance to get back in the game, and they did.

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