The Carolina Hurricanes
appeared to be on cruise control against the Toronto Maple Leafs
at Air Canada Centre after scoring four goals in the first period.
Somewhere along the line, though, they hit a bump in the road. And it nearly gave them flat tires.
But Niclas Wallin
saved the day when he beat Vesa Toskala
1:52 into overtime, as the 'Canes escaped Toronto with a 5-4 victory Tuesday night.
Three of Carolina's goals came in the first 8:53, but the Hurricanes were outshot 27-8 over the final 40 minutes of regulation and allowed three unanswered goals as the lead slipped away.
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"We played a good period," Wallin said of the first 20 minutes. "The second was like the opposite. We didn't show up at all. In the third, we battled. I think this one of the games where we should be happy we won it, because they battled harder than us tonight."
Leafs coach Ron Wilson didn't see that way, especially early in the game. Carolina needed just 2:20 to get on the board, as Tuomo Ruutu
fired a low wrist show past his fellow Finn for his fourth goal of the season. Dennis Seidenberg
made it 2-0 at 5:06 when his power-play wrist shot found its way through Toskala's legs. Chad LaRose
extended Carolina's lead to three less than four minutes later, as the Leafs found themselves in a huge hole.
"We've got to hammer it home," Wilson said. "We've changed our focus a little bit — we thought we had (defense) in the can and have gone more into the attack mode, more shots and focused on offence. We just have to hammer (defense) home.
"That's what we'll do tomorrow."
With the victory, Carolina coach Peter Laviolette
tied John Tortorella for the most wins by a U.S.-born coach with 239. Obviously, it didn't come as easily as it should have, given his team's early lead.
Perhaps the turning point in the game was in the third period, when the Hurricanes were able to kill off a two-man advantage that lasted 1:13. Laviolette admitted he noticed a change in Toronto's intensity once its power play expired.
"It did give us energy," Laviolette said. "I thought after that, a little bit of the momentum left them. Not that we turned it on that much, but it became pretty even at that point. No team really dominated from that point on, so we did grab some momentum and settled things down with that kill."
Wilson believes his power play needs to be evaluated some more after failing to cash in with the two-man advantage.
"We should have won the game with the 5-on-3," Wilson said. "We're going to have to work on this. I just see a selfish attempt at trying to single-handedly score the goal on a 5-on-3. We have to move the puck and be patient. And we're not."
With his team trailing 4-1, Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski
got his team on the right track when he beat Cam Ward
3:40 into the second period. With LaRose in the penalty box, Grabovski took a cross-crease feed from Niklas Hagman
and stuffed it home to make it 4-2.
"We let them off too easy in the first period," Hagman said. "We didn't play as hard as we should have."
Mike Van Ryn
cut the deficit to one with his third goal of the season with 5:28 left in the second. Grabovski then sent the home crowd into a frenzy when he tied the game 89 seconds into the third with his fourth goal in two games.
"Every game I feel comfortable because the coach gave me ice time and I have a great line," said the 24-year-old Grabovski.
While the Leafs were certainly happy to get a point after trailing by three goals, they know they're going to have to put forth more 60-minute efforts if they plan to remain competitive in the Eastern Conference.
"We dug ourselves a hole in the first and it was too big to get out of almost," Toronto defenseman Jeff Finger
said. "We salvaged a point but I think everybody agrees that that's not good enough in the first. It pretty much cost us two points."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.
Material from wire services was used in this report.