The Next Century game was something that the Carolina Hurricanes would, in all likelihood, like to avoid for the next century.
The Canes dropped an 8-1 decision to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Tuesday’s milestone hockey game for the organization and the league as a whole. Toronto bookended the win with four-goal periods and handed Carolina their first loss since December 11 in Anaheim.
An early powerplay didn’t render positive results for Carolina. Noah Hanifin got the puck taken from him by Zach Hyman at the offensive blue line, and the Maple Leafs had an easy time beating Scott Darling on the counterattack as Leo Komarov shot it right past his glove-side shoulder.
Under three minutes later, the Leafs scored another special teams goal, this time on a powerplay of their own. Mitch Marner reloaded in his own defensive zone, carried the puck through the neutral zone, penetrated the Canes’ blue line and beat Darling on a shot that the big netminder would probably want back. That made it 2-0 just over 5:30 into the game.
Just over halfway through the opening period, the Hurricanes found a way to beat Frederik Andersen and maybe turn the game around. Teuvo Teravainen hit Jeff Skinner streaking down the middle of the neutral zone, and Skinner walked in, danced around former teammate Ron Hainsey, and his shot deflected off the veteran defender and fluttered past Andersen.
From there, it was all Leafs, and it didn’t take long for the home team to take control.
1:27 after Skinner had cut the lead in half, James van Riemsdyk, brother of Carolina’s Trevor, slammed home the rebound after Tyler Bozak’s shot that went off the post and couldn’t be corralled in time by Darling. It was a historic powerplay goal - the 20,000th goal in franchise history - and it made the score 3-1.
Just under three minutes later, Bozak got a goal of his own. Marner danced around the periphery of the offensive zone, eventually drove to the front of the net, and Bozak ripped the puck home after it was tipped off of Marner’s stick to make it 4-1 in the first period.
A scoreless second period wasn’t what Carolina needed, but they did up their play. They started getting more chance, including a grade-A opportunity in close on a sprawling Andersen, but Skinner couldn’t elevate the puck quite enough to make it 4-2.
The third period is where things ultimately fell apart for the Hurricanes as they displayed an embarrassing effort at the end of what was a let down of a game to that point.
After some back-and-forth play early in the final frame, Patrick Marleau was the first to break through, banking one off of Justin Faulk’s leg as the American defender tried to seal off the post after Darling had attacked Marleau and forced him wide of the net.
The Hurricanes won the ensuing faceoff, but Hanifin whiffed on the puck. That error allowed Kasperi Kapanen to carry the puck into the zone and rip it in off the glove of Darling, scoring the Leafs’ second goal in six seconds, to make it 6-1.
At the 14:05 mark of period three, the Maple Leafs found twine yet again. Apparent miscommunication from Carolina’s defenders led to both Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce covering the same player on a 2-on-2, and William Nylander had all the room and time in the world to beat Darling and extend the Toronto lead to 7-1.
The scoring finally ended with 1:27 left in the third period. Elias Lindholm couldn’t beat defenseman Connor Carrick, whose solid effort on Tuesday will hopefully lead to more games in the future with the blue and white, to the front of the net, and the young blueliner beat Darling via a backhander that trickled under his extended pad to make it 8-1.
The big loss marked the end of a three-game winning streak for the Carolina Hurricanes, who were fresh off of a remarkable win and effort from Scott Darling on Saturday against the Blue Jackets.
Carolina had an opportunity to keep their momentum rolling and make a big statement on a big stage. They failed to do that in Toronto and looked like an ECHL team in the process.
The Canes will now head south again, this time to Nashville for a big game against the Predators. They were able to defeat the Preds in a shootout on November 26.
Rank the Performances
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