1. Canes pounce on Leafs early, establish two-goal lead in first three minutes of opening frame.
Carolina entered Thursday's contest on a two-game losing skid, and they looked hungry early on to put an end to it, registering the first two goals of the night in the first 2:57 of action. Winger Josh Jooris struck first, netting his first of the season at 2:20 of the opening period, and 33 seconds later, winger Teuvo Teravainen added his third of the year to put the visitors ahead by a pair.
Suffice to say, the Leafs' defence was not at its peak to begin this tilt, and the Hurricanes - who had two of their three wins thus far come on the road - were eager to take advantage of their sub-par start.
2. Matthews, Marleau team up to get Leafs on scoresheet, but Carolina restores two-goal lead before first intermission.
The Leafs have had stretches where opponents score more than once in a short span, but Toronto's collective ability with the puck has allowed them to quickly atone for their mistakes - and that looked to be the case when centre Auston Matthews scored his team-leading eighth goal of the year at the 9:19 mark of the first. The Buds built on Matthews' marker and battled back to nearly tie the Canes in shots on net - firing 15 shots on goalie Scott Darling, while the Hurricanes had 16 shots on Toronto's Frederik Andersen - but Carolina restored their two-goal lead with 3:52 when centre Elias Lindholm notched his second of the season. Seconds prior to Lindholm's goal, Andersen made arguably his best save of the year - and perhaps the best save of his Leafs career - by robbing blueliner Noah Hanifin with a spectacular glove save on Hanifin's powerful slap shot while Andersen was lying on his stomach. But the Hurricanes are a slick, swift young group, and Toronto gave them too many quality scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes to even think about establishing a lead in front of their home crowd.
3. Moore nets third of year to bring Buds within a goal, Hyman ties it less than two minutes later.
The Hurricanes and Leafs traded chances early in the second period, but Toronto got the first goal of the frame when centre Dominic Moore finished off his own 2-on-1 rush with winger and linemate Matt Martin and beat Darling with a backhand rebound shot at the 5:47 mark. One minute and 24 seconds after that, winger Zach Hyman scored his fourth of the year on a backhand shot of his own, and with 12:49 left in the period, the teams were all tied up at three goals apiece. Blueliner Morgan Rielly recorded his team-leading eighth assist of the year on Moore's goal, while Matthews' helper on Hyman's marker was his sixth of the season. And yet again, the Leafs' high-octane offence helped it dig out from a hole.
4. Hurricanes answer back after pair of Leafs goals, retake lead late in second.
Toronto looked to have momentum after tying the game, but the Hurricanes refused to wilt in the face of the Leafs' pressure, and with 6:23 left in the second, Carolina retook the lead on center Victor Rask's second goal of the year. The Buds have allowed at least three goals-against in six of their nine games prior to Thursday's action, and head coach Mike Babcock and his players understand that number has to drop as the season continues and playoff teams hone their defensive attack. The Leafs aren't yet where they want to be when it comes to play in their own zone, and their offence can't win them games every night.
5. Carolina seals victory with two goals in third; Leafs turn attention to Saturday showdown with Flyers.
The Leafs' defensive issues continued in the final regulation period, with Carolina adding two goals - one from winger Brock McGinn at 10:15 of the third, and the other from Jooris (his second of the game) at 12:19 - and pulling away from the Buds in the final half of the frame. Toronto didn't stop competing, but the Hurricanes are a well-coached squad and weren't about to allow the Leafs to come back for a second time on this night. The Buds' record fell to 7-3-0 with the defeat - still a very solid start to the year - and all three losses were by the same score. That's a coincidence, but it's still something for Babcock & Co. to address in their work at practice and in games ahead. Toronto's next game takes place Saturday at the ACC against the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Leafs then head out on a four-game road swing that takes them through California and St. Louis, so they'll be tested often and robustly as they focus on cleaning up their defensive-zone play.