It’s not often a team can score five unanswered goals in a hockey game, and six total, and come away with a loss, but that’s exactly what the Carolina Hurricanes did in Toronto Monday in Scotiabank Arena.
The Maple Leafs beat the Canes 8-6 in a wild affair, as Toronto scored three times in the first 5:10, and then five times in the third period to beat the Hurricanes.
Do you want to build a snowman?
There seems to be something about Christmas-time in Toronto that makes the Canes want to build a snowman, or more accurately, watch the Maple Leafs build a snowman. For the second time in the last three seasons, the Canes surrendered eight goals to Toronto in an afternoon weekday game around the holidays.
In 2017, the Canes got run out of the then-Air Canada Centre in an 8-1 loss that somehow featured eight different goal scorers for the Maple Leafs. This time around, it was a much more respectable 8-6 loss for the Canes, but it counts all the same in the standings.
Toronto opened the game with three goals in the first 5:10, scoring two of those on the power play against what had been an incredibly hot Hurricanes’ penalty kill. To their credit, the Canes did a great job of bouncing back, scoring five unanswered goals to claw back from the early deficit and take a two-goal lead.
However, the Maple Leafs scored five times in the final period to win the wildly entertaining battle. It was one of those games that you don’t want to read too much into, because nothing like it is going to happen again this season. Carolina clearly didn’t come out ready to play in front of James Reimer, who was shaky enough to get pulled just over five minutes in (though his defense certainly didn’t do him any favors).
The comeback was good for the Hurricanes, but what’s the point of mounting a comeback if you’re just going to give it right back? The Canes made a habit early in the season of falling behind and coming from behind, but it’s something they’ve moved away from. It was promising to see that they still have that ability to fight, but Carolina just has to play cleaner hockey than it did Monday in Toronto.
The Hurricanes started badly and ended even worse, and will want to move on from this one as quickly as possible. The problem with that, is Carolina will take the taste of this loss into the Christmas break and will have to sit for three days waiting to get back on the ice.
The positive that comes from an 8-6 loss is that the Hurricanes scored six times, and one of the brightest spots for Carolina was Erik Haula. For the Canes, Haula’s production Monday had to come with a sigh of relief as the forward showed he’s still got it after a lengthy injury.
Haula came over to Carolina in the offseason, and he started the year off with a bang. He scored seven goals in the Canes’ first nine games, and the Hurricanes great start as a team was directly the result of the way Haula started out the season.
However, the injury woes came for Haula in mid November. Lingering knee issues sidelined Haula for a long spell, as he missed 15 games in a row, and 19 of 21 in total, before returning to the Hurricanes’ lineup Saturday against Florida.
Haula didn’t do much against the Panthers, but Monday in Toronto he provided a much-needed spark for the Hurricanes. After providing an assist to Martin Necas on the Canes’ third goal of the afternoon, his fourth of the year, Haula tallied his first goal since Nov. 2 to put Carolina up 4-3.
Eric Haula scores off the turnover. Great pass from Martin Necas. Canes take the lead. The Hurricanes have *4* unanswered goa... The Canes literally just scored again while I'm writing this, brb. pic.twitter.com/y6HMSctjXB— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 23, 2019
After Toronto cut Carolina’s lead to 5-4, Haula struck again a little over five minutes into the third period. Haula blasted a snap shot from the circle past Frederik Anderson, scoring his second of the game and 10th of the season.
All Erik Haula does is score goals.— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 23, 2019
Stretch pass from Jaccob Slavin, Martin Necas drops to Ryan Dzingel, Dzingel sets up Haula. Haula's second goal today, his 10th in 18 games this season. Necas has a 4-point game. 6-4 Hurricanes. pic.twitter.com/kusqKpQhCB
It’s always hard to come back from an extended injury, but it looks like Haula is already getting comfortable on the ice again. The Canes relied on his offense early in the season, and having him back in the mix will be a big boost for Carolina moving into the last stretch of 2019 and the new year.
Have a day, Martin Necas
It’s easy to take the Hurricanes’ abundance of young talent for granted, but it seems that Carolina has a guy under the age of 23 scoring and producing every single game. Monday that guy was Martin Necas, who can often get lost in the shine of Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov.
Necas scored twice and assisted two more goals against the Maple Leafs, as his four points in the game were a new career high for the 20-year old forward. Necas is playing his first full NHL season this year, and he has at times been absolutely phenomenal for the Canes.
He’s an extremely talented young player, and his talents were on full display Monday. Necas netted his first of the game late in the first period, scoring an absolutely brilliant tip-in on the power play.
Martin Necas with a great deflection on Lucas Wallmark's point shot. The Hurricanes were down 3-0 early, but a SHG and PPG pull them back in it. It's a 3-2 game after one period in Toronto. 7th goal of the year for Necas. pic.twitter.com/C8IuHVc2Q7— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 23, 2019
Necas scored again early in the second period, tying the game up at 3-3. Necas received a pass from Haula and fired a beautiful snap shot into the bottom corner of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Morgan Reilly turns the puck over, and the Hurricanes capitalize. Ryan Dzingel knocked it down, Erik Haula with a gorgeous pass to Martin Necas. Tie hockey game after 3 unanswered goals. pic.twitter.com/kflAu3JrFz— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) December 23, 2019
Necas would go on to assist both of Haula’s goals, as his effort earned him the third star of the game in a losing effort. Necas may not be as well regarded on a national level as other young teammates in Aho and Svechnikov, but he’s playing great hockey for the Canes in his first real run in the NHL.
When you look at the offensive output for the Hurricanes on Monday, there’s a lot of good things to takeaway. However, any fun that came from the goal scoring was completely soured by the eight goals the Maple Leafs put away.
This is a game that you take and put firmly in the rearview mirror, and try not to think about much again in the future. The Canes will get the holiday off, before returning to action in New York Friday night against the Rangers.