TORONTO – The Air Canada Centre has not been kind to the Toronto Maple Leafs early in the NHL season.
Following Monday’s spirited first period where the Leafs played some of their best hockey on home ice of the young campaign, things came unglued in the second as Jordan Staal scored his first with the Hurricanes and his brother Eric added the winner in Carolina’s 4-1 victory.
The loss dropped the Maple Leafs (4-5-0) to just 1-4-0 at home following a performance that was, from a Toronto perspective, at times frustrating, sloppy and undisciplined.
“We can play for stretches in this building but it seems that when it starts to go the other way on us we don’t seem to be able to pick ourselves back up and say ‘Hey stop it. This is what we’ve got to do to correct it,'” Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. “The turnovers are the most disturbing thing for me. As a coach you want to limit those turnovers and those are the most disturbing things.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first, the Hurricanes tied it just 1:21 into the second. After Jeff Skinner beat out an icing call, Patrick Dwyer fed an unmarked Jordan Staal in front for his first goal with the Hurricanes since coming over in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins at June’s NHL draft. Staal also picked up an assist on Dwyer’s third-period goal.
“It was nice to get a goal to get us going,” he said. “As a Hurricane, it was nice to get that first one and hopefully many more after that.”
Eric Staal hit the post a few minutes later as the Hurricanes rebounded from a sluggish opening 20 minutes to grab momentum with the first nine shots of the second period.
The Hurricanes’ captain had better luck with his next chance to give Carolina (4-4-0) the lead with his seventh of the season at 10:21 on the power play. With Toronto’s Jay McClement off in the box for unsportsmanlike conduct after giving Ward a snow shower, Staal walked out from the corner and saw his cross-crease pass deflect in off Leafs defenceman Mike Kostka.
“The first couple shifts of the second period, we turned the puck over at the offensive blue-line and it started to deteriorate then and we started to play a lot more in the defensive zone,” Carlyle said. “On faceoffs we didn’t do a very good job of blocking out to retrieve pucks and we let them jump through a few times.
“The momentum went in their favour and then we got ourselves behind the 8-ball with maybe focusing on some of the things that were going on in the game other than how we were playing and how we needed to play to be effective.”
Dwyer, with a goal and an assist, and Justin Faulk also scored for Carolina, which got 41 saves from Cam Ward. Skinner added three assists for the Hurricanes.
Matt Frattin scored the only goal for Toronto, with James Reimer making 35 stops in defeat.
Reimer was at a loss as to why the Leafs have struggled on home ice—a troubling trend that dates back to last season.
“You want to win at home. You come home and this is the place you want to win,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what the reason is and I don’t know if anybody does have the reason.
“It’s the million-dollar question and we don’t like it. We don’t like it one bit. This is where we want to win.”
One of the big differences on the night was the power play. Carolina finished 2-for-4, while Toronto wound up 0-for-5.
“We’re moving around really well (on the power play), getting guys to the net,” Frattin said. “Pucks are there but they’re beating us to it.”
Down 2-1, the Leafs thought they had tied the score with 1:16 left in the second when Kostka’s shot from the point deflected in off Tyler Bozak. But after video review, officials ruled the Toronto centre had kicked the puck in past Ward.
“I don’t think I kicked it,” Bozak said. “Tough call and there’s nothing we can do now. We have to fight through adversity and things like that. Unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The crowd of 19,073 was further incensed as the Leafs were assessed back-to-back penalties to close out the period.
With Carolina on a 5-on-3 man advantage to start the third, Faulk finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play 43 seconds into the period with a goal on a play that again went to video review.
Maple Leafs centre Phil Kessel, now goalless through the opening nine games of the season, had a great chance to open his account on a power play later in the third but was robbed by Ward.
The Leafs continued to press, but Dwyer beat Reimer with a quick shot at 9:58 to put the game out of reach.
Toronto had a number of chances early on before Frattin opened the scoring at 5:44 of the first off a Nazem Kadri rebound. It was Frattin’s his fifth goal in six games since being recalled from the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
The Leafs continued to press but Ward was the difference early to get his team to the locker-room trailing by just one.
“I felt really comfortable at the start of the game,” Ward said. “I expected they were going to throw a lot of shots at the net and I had to be ready. It took a little bit to get our legs but to walk into that first intermission down one we really took over the second. We were able to get our feet moving and capitalize on some opportunities.”
Notes: Kadri was hurt after blocking a shot in front of Reimer in the first period but didn’t miss a shift. … Referee Marc Joannette was hit with a Dion Phaneuf clearing attempt in the second. He left to the ice to get some attention from the Toronto training staff before returning later in the period. … The Maple Leafs open a three-game road trip on Tuesday in Washington against the Capitals. … The Hurricanes visit Ottawa to take on the Senators on Thursday. … Scratched for Carolina were RW Andreas Nodl and D Joe Corvo. … D Mike Komisarek, D Carl Gunnarsson and C David Steckel sat out for Toronto.