|Scott Walker netted a power play goal with 32.6 seconds left in overtime to complete an improbable comeback as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2.
But Cory Stillman and Ray Whitney scored less than a minute apart late in regulation and Scott Walker notched a power play goal with 32.6 seconds left in overtime as Carolina skated off with an improbable 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the RBC Center on Tuesday night.
It appeared as if luck wasn’t on the Hurricanes’ side right from the beginning. Carolina outshot the Leafs 10-1 in the first five minutes, but Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala was up to the challenge and kept the Hurricanes off the board.
The Maple Leafs fed off Toskala’s play and took a 1-0 lead when Boyd Devereaux beat Carolina netminder John Grahame 17:50 into the opening period ( 700K ). Devereaux capitalized on a rebound in front after Tomas Kaberle hit the post on a sharp-angled shot.
Kaberle put Toronto up by a pair with a power-play goal at 18:24 of the second period ( 700K ). With Walker in the box for high-sticking, Kaberle gained control of the puck behind the Carolina net and stuffed a wraparound past Grahame.
The Hurricanes failed to get anything past Toskala for much of the third period, but everything fell apart for the Leafs after Stillman jammed a rebound past Toskala to make it 2-1 with 1:25 to play ( 700K ).
''To come back from two goals down with a minute and a half left — we've got to get momentum after that,'' Stillman said.
Carolina did just that, although it took a puzzling play by Toronto’s Alexei Ponikarovsky to give the Hurricanes the chance to score the tying goal. Ponikarovsky had a wide-open chance to shoot the puck into an empty net, but he waited too long and wound up turning the puck over to Stillman. On the return rush, Whitney’s one-time blast from the left circle beat Toskala at 19:33 ( 700K ).
"I didn't know the guy was coming behind me," Ponikarovsky said. "I took a little more time than I should have and he lifted my stick and caused the turnover. It's not acceptable to do that kind of stuff at that time of the game."
Toronto coach Paul Maurice agreed. The turnover cost the Leafs what would have been their fourth straight road victory.
"You've got to put the puck in the net or put it in deep," Maurice said. "There's no other play needed to be made at that point. You've got to sense the urgency of the back pressure and get the puck in deep."
Ponikarovsky also took a tripping penalty in overtime — and Nik Antropov gave the Hurricanes a two-man advantage when he went off for hooking at 2:51 of the extra session.
“I don’t know why we didn’t shoot it in,” Antropov said of the turnover late in the third. “After that, we make a couple of mistakes and unfortunately, their pucks went in.”
The Leafs killed off the 5-on-3, but with Antropov still in the penalty box, Walker completed the incredible come-from-behind victory when he deflected a slap shot from Eric Staal past Toskala at 4:27 ( 700K ). Carolina had cashed in on just two of its prior 31 power plays, and was 0-for-7 prior to Walker’s game-winner.
''It's a tough loss for us because we played a solid game except for the last two minutes,'' Toronto defenseman Pavel Kubina said. ''With two minutes, I thought it was game over.''
The Leafs won’t have much time to dwell on the loss. They visit Tampa Bay on Thursday as their seven-game road trip continues.
"It will be tough to bounce back, but we will," Maurice said.
Material from wire services and team media were used in this report.