The scoring opened with Tyler Bozak tapping home a slick Phil Kessel pass through the paint, followed by Cody Franson getting a PPG in the second to give the Leafs the lead at 2-0. Carolina roared back, scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal, a power play goal, and an even strength goal to set the Leafs back 3-2. Not content with blowing a two goal lead, the Great Leader Dion Phaneuf inspired the team with a sick game-tying slapper from the top of the circles. Then Joffrey Lupul put the game on his formerly fragile back, and went the full 180 to tuck the puck behind Carolina's netminder for the win. Two empty net goals by Jay McClement and Nikolai "I Almost Went Full Stefan" Kulemin would seal the win.
The Game In Six
If the gif header wasn't enough, and if the game in six weren't enough, watch Lupul's game winning breakout, zone entry, finishing touch, and sprawling second effort push the Leafs past the Canes all over again:
Goal line to goal line. Obviously, Lupul's two point night gets the best of shout outs, especially as he, Kadri, and Kulemin were matched up against Eric Staal, Alex Semin, and Jiri Tlusty. Kessel's great assists on the first two plays are also fantastic - how did he get the first pass through the crease to Bozak? So much depth to him as a player, what with all this passing ability. Overall, the JVR-Bozak-Kessel line ran roughshod over Jordan Staal and Justin Skinner, with Bozak being on ice for 15 more shot attempts in the Leafs' favor than against.
The Leafs looked strong in the first, slow in the second, and strong in the third again. The Canes looked like a team that needs defense even worse than the Leafs (If you're wondering where Gardiner is, by the way, he was in the press box for, uh, accountability or something). Their ES TOI leader on defense was Jamie McBain, who was credited with 0 scoring chances for and 9 against, even though his time was played opposite the Fraser/Franson pairing. Another difference? Goaltending. Justin Peters is no James Reimer. Oh, wait: the last difference? Ten points and four positions in the standings. The playoffs creep closer day by day. Next game: Saturday against the Ottawa Senators.