TORONTO – After a tough start to the season, Cam Ward found his game Monday night.
The former Conn Smythe winner stopped 41 of 42 shots -- including great saves in the third period on Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak – as the Carolina Hurricanes earned a 4-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
Jordan Staal, Eric Staal, Justin Faulk and Patrick Dwyer all scored for Carolina, while Jeff Skinner chipped in with three assists.
"I want to get my game back to where it needs to be as quick as possible," said Ward, who was the Most Valuable Player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2006. "I really wanted to play well and show the team that I am doing what I can. Tonight was fun, I just felt like I was a lot more relaxed."
Ward entered the game with a 1-3 record and a 4.05 goals-against average, but rebounded in a big way Monday night to earn his second win of the season.
"It was the layoff. I was doing what I can to stay in shape (during the work stoppage) and stay in form by skating with the guys in Raleigh, but it's tough when you haven't faced a game situation for so long."
Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller felt that it was a statement game for his goaltender.
"He got challenged earlier and he was firing his belly and wanting to prove something to me," Muller said. "It was great because he is an elite goaltender and when he plays like tonight, he is one of the top (goalies) in the game."
James Reimer stopped 35 of 39 shots for the Maple Leafs, who went 0-for-5 on the power play.
With the Hurricanes up 2-1 entering the final period, Faulk put the visitors up by a pair just 43 seconds in – scoring his second goal of the season on a 5-on-3. Dwyer sealed the victory at 9:58 on a wrist shot from the slot. It was Dwyer's third of the season and second point of the night.
After being outshot in the first period 18-12, Carolina rallied together and picked up the slack offensively over the next 40 minutes.
The Maple Leafs got caught on a defensive miscue early in the second period, when Jordan Staal scored his first goal as a member of the Hurricanes at 1:21. Dwyer drew several opposing players towards him before sending the puck to the front of the net, where Staal was left all alone and he easily beat Reimer with a quick move to the backhand.
Midway through the period, Jordan's older brother, Eric, lit the lamp. With Maple Leafs forward Jay McClement in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct, the Hurricanes' captain banked the puck in from the side of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
"No question we want to get [the power play] going and sometimes you need to catch a break," said Staal of his eventual game-winning goal. "We had some unfortunate plays in the first where we fanned on some pucks. They were coming hard and aggressive, and Cam Ward did a good job of keeping it at 1-0 and we wanted to respond coming into the second period."
The Hurricanes had gone 1-for-16 with the man-advantage over the past three games. They finished 2-for-4 against Toronto.
In a momentum-shifting play, Tyler Bozak thought he had tied the game at 18:44 of the second. But after review, it was ruled that he had kicked in a redirection attempt off a shot from Michael Kostka.
"It was kind of a deflating moment," Bozak said. "We took a couple of penalties right after that and whenever a team has a 5-on-3 with the skilled players they have, it's going to be tough to keep it out of the net. That was a big turning point in the game, for sure."
"As it happened, I knew it went off the skate," Ward said. "Obviously, I like the call that was made, but it could have gone either way."
Matt Frattin's team-leading fifth goal gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead just 5:44 into the game. Frattin pounced on a rebound that defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti misplayed in front of Ward. Nazem Kadri took the initial shot, shoveling the puck on goal after fanning on his first attempt.
Clarke MacArthur rejoined the Maple Leafs after missing three games with a lacerated finger. He had four shots on goal in just over 15:34 of ice time. Phil Kessel also had four shots, but has yet to score this season.