TORONTO - It was a happy homecoming for Paul Maurice.
The Carolina Hurricanes coach earned a victory in his return to the Air Canada Centre on Monday as Cam Ward made 35 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Joe Corvo and Chad LaRose had goals while Ward picked up his second shutout of the season for Carolina (22-20-5).
The Maple Leafs were held off the scoreboard at home for the second straight home game and saw their record fall to 17-22-7.
The mood around the Hurricanes was pretty glum as they arrived in Toronto mired in a five-game losing streak. Maurice put his players through a couple difficult practices over the last week and must have been happy with the way they responded.
Maurice spent the past two seasons coaching the Maple Leafs and admitted recently that games against his former team mean a little more. Toronto beat the Hurricanes 6-4 in Raleigh last Thursday but the visitors returned the favour in the rematch - earning key points as they look to get back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The first half of the game was pretty even, with Ward and Vesa Toskala each making a couple big saves for their teams to keep it scoreless.
Corvo provided the breakthrough for Carolina just over a minute after Tomas Kaberle had been penalized for accidentally clearing the puck over the glass from his own end. The Hurricanes defenceman one-timed a shot past a screened Toskala at 16:26 of the second period to make it 1-0.
The real back-breaker came with just 4.9 seconds left in the middle frame. Leafs forward Alexei Ponikarovsky had a golden chance to clear the puck from the team's end, but put it on the stick of Matt Cullen instead. Cullen quickly found LaRose all alone in front and it was 2-0 after 40 minutes.
Toronto came out with more desperation in the third period but Ward was equal to the challenge - getting his pad on a Niklas Hagman's shot from in close before turning away an Ian White slapshot a few moments later. He later stopped a Ponikarovsky chance from the top of the crease to preserve the shutout.
The Maple Leafs have had no trouble scoring away from home of late, but it's now been 127 minutes 51 seconds since they've found the back of the net at Air Canada Centre.
That was only part of the bad news for the team on Monday.
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the morning skate that he expected to have defenceman Mike Van Ryn back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 18. However, Van Ryn failed to pass a baseline test to clear the way for his return from a concussion and remained sidelined.
Toronto has just three wins in its last 13 games and heard a few boos from the home crowd once again. The team faces Boston at home on Wednesday before getting a couple days off during this weekend's all-star break.
Notes: Announced attendance was 19,018 ... Eric Staal played his 301st consecutive game for Carolina ... The Leafs dropped to 2-6-1 in January ... Hurricanes captain Rod Brind'Amour entered the game with a league-worst minus-29 rating. He's a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's top defensive forward ... Carolina is the least-penalized team in the league.