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Recap: Leafs stifle the Hurricanes 4-0

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McElhinney records a 37 save shutout, Matthews does a thing.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Carolina Hurricanes James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1st period 0-0

First period featured a lot of up and down play - the Leafs had a couple of instances of extended offensive zone time, but the Canes had more shots and the best chances. McElhinney isn’t always seeing things and a couple of the rebounds have been more trouble than the initial shot but everything’s stayed out so far. Shots 15 - 6 for the Hurricanes. There’s a definite sense the first goal is going to be a dumb one.

Hyman’s work on the PK continues to draw dividends, in this case a cross-checking penalty from Staal 15 seconds into a Soshnikov slashing penalty. The commentators are still talking up Leivo’s “hot stick” but they can’t actually make him score. Matthews managed to lose his helmet after a scoring chance on the power play which took him out of the play at a time when he might have been useful. His helmet sat just off to Ward’s right for what seemed like an eternity til the next whistle (when Polak was called for slashing).

2st period 2-0 Leafs

The Canes started off dominating play in the second and only by grace of luck and Curtis McElhinney did the puck stay out of the net. I said the first goal was going to be a dumb one - there have been dumber goals than this one from Connor Brown but it was still pretty lucky that he managed to drop it behind Ward instead of sending it over the net.

McElhinney had a few lucky moments, including having to corral a puck that glanced off him from behind. Kadri got his head knocked into the boards while he was sitting on the ice, but of course he didn’t go to the room - why bother, it’s just his brain. The Canes were called for tripping and showed off their league-leading penalty kill: the Leafs didn’t even manage to get set up until there were less than 40 seconds left in the power play. About a minute later, Auston Matthews happened.

I expect we’re going to see that goal a lot in highlights over the next while and I don’t expect any Leafs fan will mind that much. Wow.

Despite the two goals, this really wasn’t one of the Leafs’ better periods. Connor Carrick was called for boarding at 12:09 and the Hurricanes stayed in the offensive zone for a solid four minutes. McElhinney was having a hell of a night but relying on him to keep everything out is not a sustainable defensive strategy.

3rd period 4-0 Leafs

The Leafs got off to a better start in the third period. They still weren’t getting off a lot of shots, but managed to keep the puck away from their own net for a while. The first time McElhinney had to spend any extended time defending, they responded by getting it out and scoring a goal.

See, good things happen when you get the puck out of your own zone! At about this point Toronto started pouring it on and Carolina started falling apart. The Leafs came into the Hurricanes’ zone with a bit of structure and organization and hey, another goal!

Very pretty setup and finish from JVR and Brown.

That was the end of it for Ward, who may have taken himself out of the game, it wasn’t clear. Eddie Lack mostly managed to keep the puck out for the final half-period. Hyman had a couple of chances, one of which ended up with him in the net and Nylander scoring while he was still in there, but it was ruled that Hyman made incidental contact with the goalie, so no goal. (I have simplified the circus that happened for the sake of brevity.)

Considering how badly they were outshot in the first period, that the Leafs ended up evening it to 31-37 is not bad at all. McElhinney got the shutout, partially through some great positioning and partially through things like this:

Other Leafs of note

  • Nazem Kadri, despite the bump on the head had a fair few chances around the net
  • Josh Leivo, who the commentators continue to talk up, did not manage to score but had a few of the better shots among those that didn’t go in.
  • Zach Hyman is still a dogged little pest with the puck, especially shorthanded
  • Jake Gardiner had three points on the night. I firmly believed early in the first that he was going to score an own goal so I’m glad he sorted things out.