Analysis from Toronto
→ After winning four straight to cap a five-game homestand, the Carolina Hurricanes hit the road and stretched their winning streak to five games with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jeff Skinner and Viktor Stalberg scored for the Hurricanes, who snapped the Leafs' three-game home winning streak, and Cam Ward made 25 saves.
"I think we're playing good throughout the lineup," said Stalberg, who scored the game-winning goal. "Special teams were big tonight with our power play scoring and us getting one shorthanded and killing three other power plays off."
"We've been able to carry over the momentum. Once again, the guys competed and worked really hard. I thought the special teams was clearly the difference tonight," Ward said. "Kudos to the guys for competing against a very talented team."
"We played the same game that we played at home. Took it on the road, and it was enough to be successful," head coach Bill Peters said. "I thought our specialty teams were obviously huge tonight and a big part of it."
Video: Ward, Hurricanes edge Maple Leafs, 2-1
→ The Hurricanes' penalty kill has been nearly impenetrable all season, and tonight it got involved on the offensive side of the puck as well. As Tyler Bozak skated through the neutral zone, Stalberg's pressure forced him to make a play. Elias Lindholm was there at the blue line to deny the Leafs' entry and fed the puck to Stalberg, who streaked down the ice on a breakaway and netted the team's second shorthanded goal of the season to put the Hurricanes on top, 2-1.
"I was kind of in the middle of the guy, and I saw that we picked it off. Lindy got it right on his stick and it was going the other way," Stalberg said. "Any time you get a shorthanded goal on a kill, you're going to take some momentum back."
With three successful man disadvantages in the game, including one in the final five minutes of regulation to preserve the team's one-goal lead, the Canes have now killed 22 straight penalties over their last 10 games. Additionally, they are 30-for-32 (93.8%) on the road, which is a league-best mark.
"I think we're doing a great job on the kill. Guys are willing to sacrifice. We're not giving them a whole lot either," Stalberg said. "We're putting pressure on them, making sure we're taking away passing lanes and forcing them to make errors out there."
So, what's the secret to the league's best penalty kill?
"I get that question a lot," Peters said. "We've got guys who take a lot of pride in it. It's an organized group."
"I don't want to give away too many secrets about why we're so successful," Ward said with a wry smile. "To be successful on the penalty kill, you need guys willing to be able to come up with big blocks and sacrifice the body."
→ On the other side of the special teams coin was the power play, which converted in the first period to even the score at one. Jeff Skinner scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season as Derek Ryan's shot flipped up and over Frederick Andersen, and Skinner's skate was there to make contact as the Leafs' defender knocked it into his own net.
→ What else is there to be said about Ward at this point? He's clearly in the zone right now, and he's easily been the Hurricanes best player in the month of November.
Ward, named the NHL's second star of the week on Monday, improved to 6-1-2 in November with a 25-save performance in his 17th career victory against Toronto. He's allowed just 14 goals on 257 shots faced (.946 save percentage).
"He gives us confidence," Peters said of his netminder. "When goaltenders are playing well, you feed off that. When you need a big save, they make the big save."
"You've got to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. In situations like that, it's a time to step up. I feel really comfortable in the net, really calm and composed," Ward said. "You knew they were going to have a late push, and they did but once again we kept our composure and didn't try to do anything special."
→ To a man, the Hurricanes were a poised group on the ice. They appeared comfortable playing with a one-goal lead late, an evolution from earlier in the season when that may have just as easily been given away.
"We're comfortable playing in a bunch of different fashions," Peters said. "I thought the pace and execution of the game was very high. You've got to compete for your share of the ice."
"We've been in a lot of tight games, and early on we didn't handle leads as well as we are right now," Ward said. "Clearly we've learned from early in the season, and we're playing much better with the lead."
→ The Hurricanes' three-game swing through Canada continues on Thursday in Montreal, where they will put their five-game winning streak on the line against a team they defeated not even a week ago.
"Just show up and compete," Ward said. "We've kind of been going with what Billy B. (Bill Burniston) says: just win the day. It's great to be on this streak, but you start the day 0-0, and you just want to win the day. Tonight we got rewarded for a strong effort."