Leafs Beat Canes 3-2 in OT

Cary, NC – The Carolina Hurricanes last game at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs was a poor outing in a 4-0 loss so both pride, and possibly a few words from the coaching staff, would hopefully have a different outcome. The effort was certainly there but the execution came just that short as the Canes lost 3-2 in overtime.

The Leafs have arguably the best corps of rookies and overall young talent, with their very good but ridiculously high priced coach Mike Babcock, and it will be a team to be reckoned with in the near future. While on the cusp of the final Wild Card spot, I think they’ll make the playoffs, earn some respect and send notice of what to expect next season. The Canes will not make the playoffs, again. They must do some drastic moves in the off-season, again. And as GM Ron Francis says, they need to get some bigger players that know how to play both sides of the puck.

Rasks Scores From Tough Angle

With the youth and talent on both teams, you knew it was going to be a fast game and from the initial drop of the puck, the story line came to be. The games started at 60 MPH and seemed to get faster with each shift. In his NHL debut last game, Valentin Zykov did what few players ever do: score on his very first shot in the big leagues. Whether it was nerves or just his nature, you’d think after that storybook start, he would have been all smiles, instead he had his game face on and barely acknowledged his accomplishment. Jeff Skinner has to show him a scorer’s smile.

His second game was a completely different story: just seconds into his first shift, he was going to the near boards after a puck. Roman Polak gave Zykov a welcome-to-the-NHL check from behind, sending the rookie head first into the boards with what looked like a shoulder or arm injury ending his night. Hopefully the NHL takes a look at that hit and issues a game or two suspension. The refs should also get a suspension for not making the call.

The Canes were the more aggressive team having posted all seven shots taken by the first TV timeout. When play resumed, the Canes Brett Pesce cleared the puck to Victor Rask in the neutral zone. Rask turned on his jets and went around two defenders then dropped a pass off to Elias Lindholm at right side of the blue line.

With Rask still at Mach One speed, Lindy fed the puck back to Rask going down the right side and Rask shot from a tough angle on the far side of the face off circle going short side on Fredrik Andersen for his 15th goal. The Leafs responded a minute later after running the cycle in the near corner, Mitch Mariner evaded Jay McClement got a pass from Tyler Bozak sending a knuckleball past the stick side of Cam Ward to tie the game.

Teravainen Scores on Powerplay

The Canes started the second on the tail end of a powerplay so they wanted to take advantage of having fresh ice, which always helps an offense. The Canes won the faceoff and methodically brought the puck into the Leafs end. Jordan Staal whipped the puck around the boards up to Teuvo Teravainen at the left point. Teravainen settled the puck, waited for traffic in front then sent a hard slap shot that Staal deflected from 10 feet out for the powerplay goal.

While the replays certainly look like Staal defelcted the puck, the official scorer said it was Teravainen’s goal. Who cares, the Canes went up 2-1. Later in the period, right after a faceoff just outside the Canes zone, James van Reimsdyk entered the Canes zone uncontested, skated down broadway timing his wrist shot just as Klas Dahlbeck was in front of Ward providing the screen, sending the puck in past Ward’s left side.

Canes Lose In OT

The third period didn’t have any scoring but was as exciting as the first two periods. A ton of end-to-end hockey and one thing was very noticeable, the Leafs forechecking, especially in the neutral offensive zones was the best I’ve seen all season. Mariner was hurt for the Leafs first game in Raleigh and with all the deserved hype about Auston Matthews, Mariner is also the real deal.

Staal’s assignment was Matthews and he did an amazing job defending him. Matthews is huge, Staal is also a big body and is among the strongest defenders in the league. He limited Matthews to just two shots on net, one had the makings of a goal if it wasn’t for Ward’s pad save. With the game ending at two each, the overtime had a lot to live up to based on the excitement during the first 60 minutes of the contest.

The Canes had the early possession and wound up getting a shot off. The Leafs finally got possession in the third minute with Morgan Rielly carrying the puck with Rask on his tail. Rielly twisted and turned, found his way to the high slot then sent a hard shot along the ice past Ward’s left – notice a trend here – for the game winner.

Canes next home game is Tuesday, March 14, 2017 on the back end of home-an-home series against the Islanders. Be There!

Canes coverage by Bob Fennel. Photos from Facebook. Read more Hurricanes coverage.