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Recap: Canes Drop Wild Game in Toronto

Canes rally, but Leafs scored four unanswered in 8-6 final

by Michael Smith @MSmithCanes /

TORONTO - The Carolina Hurricanes rallied with five straight goals to erase a three-goal deficit, but the Toronto Maple Leafs scored four unanswered in the third period to win a wild game, 8-6.

Martin Necas finished with a career high four points (2g, 2a), while Erik Haula netted two goals and added an assist.

Here are five takeaways from Monday afternoon in Toronto.

1. A Wild Ride

Erik Haula summed up the afternoon in nine words: "I don't really know how to exactly describe that."

Boiled down to the nitty gritty, here's what happened: The Leafs scored three goals. The Canes scored five goals. The Leafs scored one goal. The Canes scored one goal. The Leafs scored four goals.

"That's probably the craziest game I've ever played professionally. It was up-and-down. We started really bad," Martin Necas said. "Then, in the second period, we dominated. The third period, I don't really know what happened."

Video: CAR Recap: Haula, Necas' efforts not enough in loss

"It was probably really entertaining for people watching, but that was brutal," Haula expounded.

In the spirit of the holidays, here is an analogy to best explain what happened. Picture Christmas morning, presents under the tree. You grab a gift, furiously unwrapping it. Surprise! It's that one thing you really, truly wanted. But, then you open the box. Empty. Nothingness.

"That was a tough game. We didn't come out ready," head coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "We got back in and had the game in hand, but just fell asleep and took a little breath. That's a team that has some high-end talent. You can't do that. Another tough lesson."

2. A Nightmare Start

The start to this game was nothing short of a nightmare for the Hurricanes.

It took just 30 seconds for the Maple Leafs to strike first, when Jason Spezza scored on a backhand shot from the slot.

Then, Brett Pesce was whistled for a high-sticking double-minor, and the Leafs converted on each of the power plays. William Nylander was left wide open in the slot and buried his wrist shot to make it a 2-0 game. Late on the second power play, John Tavares' shot beat James Reimer to put the Leafs up 3-0.

All of that within the first 5:10 of the game.

"Reims coming back here, he's played here before, and that's how we start the game in front of him. It was quite embarrassing," Haula said. "We were all pissed off for him and at each other a little bit."

Brind'Amour then made just the second mid-game goalie switch of his head coaching tenure. Reimer has been excellent this season, especially lately on the road, but Brind'Amour had to somehow spark his club.

"The message was pretty simple: Let's get to the game," he said. "We spotted them three, but they didn't even have to break a sweat."

3. A Nightmare Finish

The end of this game was also, unfortunately, nothing short of a nightmare for the Hurricanes.

Trailing by two goals at the start of the third period, the Maple Leafs scored five goals, including four unanswered and three in 59 seconds in the latter half of the period to grab the win.

Auston Matthews and Erik Haula traded goals in the first six minutes of the third period.

And then, things jumped up a notch.

Mitch Marner finished a gorgeous feed from Matthews to bring the Leafs within a goal, 6-5. Then, 53 seconds later, Tyson Barrie buried a backhander to tie the game at six.

Brind'Amour called his timeout and attempted to rally the bench.

But, off the ensuing faceoff, Marner burst through the Canes' defense and scored on a breakaway to put Toronto ahead, 7-6.

An empty-net goal with 1:40 left in regulation sealed a wild win for the Leafs.

"We bounced back, but in the third period, I just don't know what happened there," Necas said.

4. Everything in Between

It started with a simple shift.

The Canes finally got a buzz going in the first period with a strong shift from the trio of Andrei Svechnikov, Jordan Staal and Warren Foegele. Staal had a couple of good looks, and though the Canes didn't get on the board, that shift helped take back some momentum. One shift at a time.

The penalty kill, victimized for two goals earlier in the frame, got one back later in the period when Brock McGinn scored on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush to get the Canes on the board.

Video: CAR@TOR: McGinn rips SHG past Andersen on the rush

The Canes weren't finished in the first. With 24.3 seconds left in the period, Martin Necas turned his blade to deflect Lucas Wallmark's point shot between his own legs and through Frederik Andersen on the power play.

Video: CAR@TOR: Necas deflects Wallmark's pass on power play

 After digging a three-goal hole in the first 5:10 of the game, the Canes headed into the intermission down just a goal.

In the second period, it took just 64 seconds for the Canes to flip a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead.

The flurry began with Necas netting his second straight goal of the game. Ryan Dzingel batted down a Leafs' breakout and dished over to Erik Haula, who then found Necas for the tying tally.

Necas wasn't done. On the ensuing shift, just 20 seconds later, Necas fed Haula for a quick-hitting tally in the slot. The goal was Haula's ninth of the season and first since Nov. 2, after which he missed 19 of the Canes' next 21 games.

Video: CAR@TOR: Hurricanes storm back with three-goal 2nd

And then, 44 seconds later, Jordan Staal found Andrei Svechnikov on the doorstep for the tap-in, and all of a sudden, the Canes had a two-goal advantage.

"I would have rather lost 8-0, to be honest with you, because we were so bad at the start. To fight back, you basically just throw that away coming back. Unless you finish it off, there's really no point in coming back," Brind'Amour said. "Unfortunately, in today's game, you've got to have 20 guys doing it right."

5. Happy Hauladays

The trio of Ryan Dzingel, Erik Haula and Martin Necas was the Hurricanes' most dangerous line of the afternoon.

The three players, led by Necas' career-best performance, finished with nine points (4g, 5a) in the contest.

"That line was good. They were dynamic out there," Brind'Amour said. "They got us on the scoresheet and back into the game."

"It's confidence for our line," Haula said. "I thought we played a really good game overall, offensively and defensively."

The two-goal performance was Haula's first multi-goal game of the season, and he's now totaled 10 goals in 18 games.

"We missed him," Necas said of his centerman. "I'm glad we scored a few today, but as you can see, is wasn't enough."

Up Next

Following the Canes' three-day holiday break, they'll head to New York City for a day trip to face off with the Rangers.

"You've got to be pissed off and come back pissed off and get right back after New York," Haula said.

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