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Hurricanes defeat Maple Leafs to end two streaks

by Kurt Dusterberg

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The last time the Carolina Hurricanes won a game, the calendar had barely turned to December.

So with Christmas one week away, there was plenty of relief when the Hurricanes snapped a six-game losing streak with a 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

Goals were at a premium during the losing streak, with Carolina scoring once in each game. Against Toronto, Chris Terry and Justin Faulk scored in the first period to give Carolina (9-19-3) the lead.

"That goal early from Terry gave the boys a good confidence boost and made it a little easier to play out there," Faulk said. "Knowing we're not scoring many, being able to get up on someone early was huge."

The Hurricanes scored 11:54 into the game. Eric Staal worked the puck from behind the Toronto net to the left faceoff circle, where he passed to Terry at the top of the crease for his fifth goal of the season. Nathan Gerbe set up Staal by cycling the puck in the corner to earn the second assist.

With Zach Boychuk in the box for interference, the Hurricanes scored shorthanded for a 2-0 lead at 13:43. Patrick Dwyer raced up the ice on a 2-on-1 and delivered a perfect pass to Faulk, who finished from the right circle for the defenseman's second shorthanded goal of the season.

"To be able to score the first two goals, that was a relief," said Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward, who made 25 saves for his ninth win. "It's no secret that we've been trying to score some goals, but tonight you could sense a little more confidence and belief that things were going to go our way."

The Maple Leafs began to sustain some offensive pressure midway through the second period before cutting Carolina's lead to 2-1 with 3:05 remaining. With David Clarkson and Daniel Winnik providing traffic in front of the net, Dion Phaneuf's slap shot beat Ward for his second of the season. Peter Holland set up the goal with a cross-ice pass to Phaneuf.

The Hurricanes extended the lead to 3-1 on Andrej Sekera's first goal of the season 11:05 into the third period. On an abbreviated power play following a Cody Franson interference penalty, Sekera patiently held the puck before sending a wrist shot high over Jonathan Bernier's glove.

"We were doing the same things (we've been doing) in the offensive zone, just shooting pucks, trying to make plays and putting traffic in front of the goalie," said Sekera, who scored 11 goals last season.

The Hurricanes' most recent win was 2-1 against the Nashville Predators on Dec. 2. After each win, a fireman's hat is awarded to Carolina's top player. After lugging the hat for 16 days, Sekera was happy to pass it to Ward.

"He has been solid forever," Sekera said. "And my bag was getting heavy the last couple weeks."

Carolina's three most recent wins are against the Maple Leafs, Predators and Pittsburgh Penguins, each among the top teams in the NHL.

"There aren't any easy nights, so if you don't bring your best, you're not going to win," said Staal, one of four Hurricanes to score two points, along with Faulk, Sekera and Gerbe. "We've been on the wrong side of a lot of close ones that we need to find ways to get better at, whether it's scoring on a play or managing the puck defensively."

Toronto (19-10-3) had a six-game winning streak end.

"We got outworked," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said. "We didn't do enough to give ourselves a chance. Then we finally got ourselves back into the hockey game and took ourselves out of it with some undisciplined acts. It comes back and bites you and takes you out of the game."

Carlyle was referring to Franson's interference penalty, when he knocked down Gerbe away from the puck while Toronto was on a power play. Sekera scored with two seconds remaining on the man-advantage.

The slow start was out of character for the Maple Leafs, who were outshot 16-9 in the first period despite two power plays.

"Right from the get-go, we were in trouble," Toronto defenseman Stephane Robidas said. "We didn't start the game on time and they took advantage of it. You can't rely on your goalie to win games every night. He made some big saves again tonight, but it's not the right recipe to win."

A few hours before the game, the Hurricanes traded defenseman Jay Harrison to the Winnipeg Jets for a sixth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Harrison, a popular presence in the Carolina locker room, played 317 games over six seasons.

"He's a great human being and he was a lot of fun to play with," Ward said. "That's the tough part of what we do. You immediately think of his family. Now as former teammates, we all wish him the best in Winnipeg."

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