Box Score | War On Ice

Toronto came out of the gates flying tonight, and hemmed in the Carolina Hurricanes through several shifts in the first half of the opening period, and as a result, they generated some great chances early on. Morgan Rielly made several impressive rushes and passes (one of which was flubbed by Michael Grabner), and Nazem Kadri looked good again.

One of those Staal brothers got a great chance alone on Jonathan Bernier as he was left uncovered in front of the net, but Bernier challenged well and came up with a toe save.

The Leafs' power play finally clicked as Brad Boyes cleaned up a rebound after a point shot and some good work in front of the Carolina net by Colin Greening. The goal gave Boyes his second goal to go along with 4 assists in his last 6 games.

There was a scary play with roughly five minutes to play in the period when the Canes' Andrej Nestrasil cross-checked Brendan Leipsic directly from behind into the boards, but Leipsic managed to get up and continue and no penalty was called on the play. Hopefully, the league will review the play.

It was John-Michael Liles who tied the game for the Hurricanes with 3:59 left in the first, as he absolutely blasted a shot through Bernier right off a faceoff win by Eric Staal. Rich Clune admittedly screened Bernier on the play, but the puck was not tipped at all, and it was far from an unstoppable puck.

The Hurricanes came within inches of taking the lead in the dying seconds of the game's first frame, with Bernier sprawling out of his crease, but the puck went wide.

At the end of 20, the Leafs lead the Canes in shots 14-6 and had generally controlled the play quite well.

To start the second period, Rich Clune started the Leafs off on the wrong foot by taking a hooking penalty immediately on the opening faceoff. The Leafs managed to kill it off, but Carolina took advantage of the opportunity to test Bernier, who looked somewhat shaky on a few saves.

Bernier did prevent Jeff Skinner from scoring on a chance off a Josh Leivo giveaway. As Bernier dropped to prevent Skinner from sliding home a goal on the far side, he extended his blocking arm and stick out to catch Skinner's foot, sending him off-balance and unable to finish off the goal.

Leivo atoned for his earlier giveaway minutes later, but picking up a Noah Hanifin turnover in the Leafs' zone, and breaking in 2-on-1 with P.A. Parenteau, who dished to Leivo, and Leivo made no mistake, snapping home his fourth goal in four games. As Greg Millen noted on the Sportsnet broadcast, whatever knocks there are of Leivo's skating, he sure can shoot.

Later in the second period, fate stepped in to bring justice to Nestrasil, as Kadri levelled him shoulder-to-shoulder, and Nestrasil went heavily and awkwardly into the boards. He left the ice being helped off by a pair of teammates and did not return to the game.

The Leafs were out-shot 11-5 in the period, but still lead 20-17 on the game.

Play progressed uneventfully through the early stages of the third period, with Parenteau and Skinner exchanging penalties and nothing coming of the two minutes spent at 4-on-4.

There were a few chances at either end, but nothing changed on the scoreboard until Kadri went 2-on-1 with Parenteau on a bad Carolina change with about 4 minutes left to play. Kadri sent an absolutely perfect saucer pass to Parenteau that the winger chipped over a sprawling Cam Ward to seal the deal for the Leafs. Kadri picked up a point and Parenteau improved his trade value just a little more.

The Leafs killed time until with roughly a minute and a half left, Eric Staal tried to exact revenge on Kadri for the Nestrasil hit, but he slipped as soon as Kadri's gloves came off and the ref tackled him. The scrap was just the obvious culmination of the Canes spending half the night being totally furious at Kadri. That's a big compliment to him.

Ward was pulled, but the Canes never mounted much pressure, and the Leafs simply walked away with two points that the Hurricanes desperately needed.

Notes on individual players:

- Morgan Rielly was flying in this game, and if Michael Grabner had any hands, he'd probably have padded his stats sheet even more in this one. I counted at least 3 good passes in the offensive zone from Rielly that Grabner struggled to handle. In any event, Rielly assisted on the first goal to pick up a point anyway.

- OK, so Jonathan Bernier made a few awkward saves and didn't look amazing on the goal (though it should be again noted that Rich Clune screened him). That said, Bernier made the saves he needed to, and so should be lauded for his efforts. The way people used to talk about James Reimer seems relevant here: "He's sure stopping the puck a lot." "Yeah, but rebounds!" Greg Millen did, to his own credit, mention repeatedly that although Bernier looked shaky early on, he steadied as the game developed.

- Stuart Percy looked good overall, but had some issues handling the puck. His decisions in the D-zone need to be faster, but you hope that this is something that can be improved upon with a little more NHL experience. He turned the puck over badly once, and had a few other near misses. Positionally, he looked great, though.

- Viktor Loov was steady all night and looked like an NHL defenceman. His size and strength are something the Leafs need more of generally, but particularly on the back end. He's known as a defensive defenceman, but he has shown that he will pinch when the moment is right. He picked up an assist tonight.

- Nazem Kadri continues to be the main offensive catalyst on this team. He's been great lately.

- P.A. Parenteau. He really wants to be traded, and I'm happy that he's motivated.