Through the first 30 minutes or so, it was a solid effort for the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday evening as they coasted on an early power play goal and suppressing defensive effort, but all it took was one play for everything to shift.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi committed a slashing penalty against Denis Malgin as he was cutting around the Hurricanes’ zone, and although the ensuing power play didn’t score, it generated the momentum the Toronto Maple Leafs had been lacking.
“The second half of the second period was not good for us,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We were on our heels after that penalty we took. They just got momentum and then we had one mess up in the d-zone, we left a guy, and that’s all it takes. Now all of a sudden, a pretty good game is thrown out the window.”
After being dominated 20-7 in shot attempts through the first period, Toronto flipped the script in that second period after their power play, heavily outchancing Carolina from there on out.
And when the Canes got a bit of breathing room off of a Toronto icing, Brind’Amour sent over the fourth line and third pairing, which proceeded to get hemmed into the Hurricanes’ zone and after three collapsed to the puck carrier in the corner, a wide open Calle Jarnkrok ripped a shot past Andersen to tie the game up late.
“Against a good team like that, if you take one little breath, they’re going to make you pay,” said captain Jordan Staal. “That whole second period was a big lull and I think if we had a better second, we would have built a better game and found a way to get a better result in the third. We had a little lull and they took advantage of it and really took it to us. I think we tried to build a game in the third and it was kind of too little too late.
The Canes actually did have a stronger effort in the third period, pushing the pace in Toronto’s zone for the most part, but again it was one little mistake in the neutral zone that cost them.
A turnover in the middle of a line change allowed Mitch Marner and John Tavares too much space and they didn’t miss and then near the end of the third with Carolina desperate to push, a loose puck was aired out to William Nylander who won a one-on-one battle with Jaccob Slavin to put in the dagger.
There were positives to take from the game though, as Carolina’s power play clicked again for the third game in a row as Stefan Noesen scored his second goal of the season by banking in a shot off of Maple Leafs’ goaltender Erik Kallgren’s back and in.
The Hurricanes also shutdown Toronto’s top guys for the most part, holding both Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews without a shot on goal, the latter of which has only been held without a shot six other times in his 420 game career.
“Anytime you play against high-caliber players like that, you want to take away their time and space and their opportunities,” said Jaccob Slavin. “We did a pretty good job of that, but at the end of the day, we’ve gotta give it our all against all four lines.”
But there were too many loose pucks that the Canes couldn’t get to and too many shots sailed high or wide as well. A majority of the Hurricanes’ top guys — Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, Teuvo Teravainen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi — were also left without a shot on goal.
“We knew it was going to be tough sledding,” Brind’Amour said. “They don’t give up a ton and neither do we and that’s basically how the game played out. I thought we were in a good spot, we just didn’t lay the hammer down and keep going. It’s tough because we did a pretty good job on some of their top guys, but they also did a pretty good job on our top guys.”
The Hurricanes next game will see them hit the road for a Wednesday matchup against the Florida Panthers.