Without their Hart Trophy hopeful superstar, Auston Matthews, and with a rookie goaltender starting in just his second ever game, the Maple Leafs shouldn’t have been too difficult an opponent. However, the Canes struggled to finish their chances and saw nearly all of their mistakes wind up in the back of their own net.
To start the game, it was all Carolina.
The Hurricanes dominated in both shots and possession, with a few close calls, but nothing was going in early.
However, it looked like the Canes were really starting to build their game, rolling all four lines, piling up chances and leaving the Leafs with seemingly no answer, but then out of nowhere, they were down.
Ilya Mikheyev came in on a rush down the far-side of the right circle and threw a bad-angle backhander on net which somehow beat Frederik Andersen.
So now, Carolina was chasing the game they were once building up.
And that’s when things started to go downhill and the momentum began to shift.
Early in the second period, the Leafs capitalized on another miscue.
On a set play that started from behind the net, Mitch Marner received a pass at the attacking blueline after Jaccob Slavin whiffed on the stretch pass, which sprung a 2-on-1 for the Leafs. Marner elected to keep the puck and sniped it past Andersen.
The Canes were getting shots and pressure on the Leafs rookie netminder, Erik Kallgren, who was leaving rebounds to be had, but Carolina was just getting nothing to go as they struggled to get into the middle of the ice.
That was until the third period, when the Canes third line – by far its best line of the night – got the puck moving and when Jesper Fast’s shot was blocked in front, Ethan Bear activated down and blasted the loose puck home.
However, soon after that, the Leafs would restore their two-goal lead after a brutal sequence by Ian Cole led Toronto to another 2-on-1 which Ondrej Kase buried from the pass across by William Nylander.
And when Carolina got a power play soon after that — a chance to get right back into the game — they looked lost and despondent. The power play was poor all night and hadn’t looked great for a few games now.
With Tony DeAngelo close to returning, it can’t come soon enough to give the Canes a much needed offensive boost.
Vincent Trocheck would get a goal with three seconds left in the game to cut the lead, but it was a classic case of too little, too late.
The Hurricanes will have a quick turn around time as they head back home to Raleigh to host the Washington Capitals Friday night at PNC Arena.