RALEIGH — The Carolina Hurricanes claimed their 1000th victory in franchise history Monday night in a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the RBC Center.
The ‘Canes may not have played their best hockey tonight, but they will gladly take the win and two points in the standings. Carolina currently sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, trailing division rival Atlanta by just one point with two games in hand.
Joe Corvo opened up the scoring 12:16 into the first period with a power play goal. Corvo’s wrist shot was re-directed off of Dion Phaneuf’s left foot, sending the puck flying past goaltender J.S. Giguere, bringing the hometown fans to their feet.
“[Corvo] is an example of what confidence can do,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “He’s feeling good about his game, as he should. He’s just been fantastic. He’s been a real important piece to our team.”
While the Hurricanes dictated the pace of the game for much of the first period, they were unable to produce much offense. Despite their strong fore check and substantial advantage in puck possession, Carolina only registered five shots on goal in the opening frame.
The Leafs turned the momentum in their favor with several minutes remaining in the first, as they began creating turnovers and quality scoring chances. Toronto’s hard work paid off with a late first period goal courtesy of defenseman Tomas Kaberle, who tipped in a Phil Kessel backhand with only 8.2 seconds remaining in the period.
The Hurricanes regained their lead midway through the second period thanks to a Jamie McBain slap shot at 11:16. Brandon Sutter extended the lead to 3-1 just 1:49 into the final stanza when he fired a backhander past Gigure.
With less than 20 minutes remaining in regulation, it seemed as if the Hurricanes were set to run away with another victory. However, Leafs forward Tim Brent scored two goals in 1:11 to tie the game at 3-3. Brent only has six goals on the year, three of which have come in the past two games.
The wild third period continued when Sutter scored his second goal of the game to give the ‘Canes a 4-3 lead. After enduring a 16-game scoreless drought, Sutter now has three goals in his past three games. The young forward hopes to build off his recent success and play a big role in helping his team in their quest for a playoff berth.
“It’s always nice to put a couple in the net,” said Sutter. “It worked out for me [tonight], so I’m excited.”
Rookie sensation Jeff Skinner brought the lead to two goals yet again by sending a scorching slap shot past Giguere. While the 19-year-old continues his stellar play, the Markham, Ontario native remains modest.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with some great linemates,” he said. “I think the goal today was kind of a lucky bounce for me. When you’re playing with great guys on your wings, it’s easy to play the game and I have to thank my linemates a lot.”
Earlier in the contest, Skinner put a wrap-around shot on net that was originally ruled a no-goal. Officials reviewed the play, but the call on the ice stood. A zoomed-in replay shows that the puck may have gone in, leading many of the 16,201 fans in attendance to incessantly heckle the officials.
Even after trailing by two goals for the second time, the Leafs refused to fold. Mike Brown tipped in a Brent shot to cut the lead back to one with 5:45 remaining in the third. The game was finally put out of reach with less than a minute to go in regulation thanks to an empty net goal scored by Erik Cole.
Although the ‘Canes skated away with a victory tonight, the team sees lots of room for improvement.
“You just look at some of those mistakes we made in the third, those are things we have to tighten up,” Corvo said. “Those are too good of chances to give up.”
Maurice, formerly the bench boss in Toronto, was content with the Canes’ performance despite their sloppy play.
“There was a lot of stuff going on in that game tonight,” he said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job hanging on to the focus that the game needed.”
The Hurricanes look to continue their playoff push on Wednesday when they travel to Nassau Coliseum to face the New York Islanders. This will be Carolina’s final game before the All Star break.