Tonight was the 80th game of the season for the Maple Leafs, and with their playoff spot cliched, the team would need to win the final three to have a shot at home ice in the playoffs against the Boston Bruins.

The Leafs don’t take any chances at the start of the game, trying to play it safe and not give up anything easy to the Hurricanes. Nothing big happens until six minutes into the period when John Tavares retaliates for an uncalled penalty on Dougie Hamilton by giving the Hurricanes defender a cross check to the back. Hamilton goes down a little too easy, and Tavares gets two for the check and Hamilton gets two for embellishment. During the four on four play neither team makes an impact on the game.

Lucas Wallmark gets the first big reaction from the crowd when he misses a shot on a lying prone Garret Sparks that looked destined to go to into a wide open net, but it rings off the crossbar and up away from the net.

Just after this Hayden Fleury gets called for hooking Patrick Marleau as the elder Leaf almost had a deflection in on a drive to the net.

The Leafs are in control for half the power play, with the Hurricanes sending the puck down to the Leafs zone the other half. The Leafs don’t manage to get a shot on net for those two minutes.

With five minutes left in the first period, the Maple Leafs catch Justin Faulk out of position and Auston Matthews takes the puck into the Hurricanes zone, makes a quick pass to William Nylander who scores the Maple Leafs first goal of the game.

That is, until the Hurricanes challenge the goal.

It’s waived off because Nylander was offside.

So the game is still 0-0 after 15 minutes.

After a face off in the Maple Leafs zone, the puck goes behind the Maple Leafs net, and Carolina’s Justin Williams will try to one hand the puck out front of the net, but the puck hits the back of Garret Sparks’ stick and bounces into the Leafs net.

1-0 Carolina with under one minute to go.

The Leafs will get another chance at the power play at the one minute mark as the Carolina Hurricanes get called for too many men. The Leafs fail to score before the period ends, but they will have 50 seconds of a power play to start the second period.

The Leafs are out-shot 10-2 in the period:

But hey, that one shot was right in front of the net!

Possession isn’t much better...

Alright, second period starts with the Maple Leafs on the power play, but the Hurricanes don’t let them get a chance, and the power play ends without a goal once again.

A minute later Martin Marincin gets called for interference on Nino Niederreiter, and Dougie Hamilton will score off the face off in the Leafs zone to put the Hurricanes up 2-0 three minutes into the period.

The Hurricanes will continue to deny the Leafs scoring chances and shots on net, while adding more to their totals. Michael Ferland of Carolina takes a shot off the foot and heads back to the dressing room, but he does return.

The Maple Leafs are getting a bit more offensive zone time as the second period goes on, but they still can’t make a complete pass to get shots on net.

Just past the halfway point of the game Niederreiter gets called for tripping Connor Brown and the Maple Leafs will get their third power play of the game.

In this power play the Maple Leafs will finally get their first extra man shot on net and then their first goal of the game!

John Tavares fights Peter Mrazek for the puck and he scores his seventh goal of the past seven games to put the Leafs on the board to make the score 2-1.

That goal seems to spark some energy into the Leafs, and they have a bit more pep in their step as they attack the Hurricanes zone. They aren't scoring, but they’re having some more exciting shots and attempts in the offensive zone, waking up the crowd a bit.

Patrick Marleau goes one on one with Dougie Hamilton while the Leafs change lines and ends up being the only Leaf in the Hurricanes zone against all five Carolina players. He won’t shoot, but the reserves come and help him out.

As the period nears it’s end Frederik Gauthier and Justin Faulk get into it in front of the Leafs bench, some smushing and helmet pushing, but no real fighting. They will both end up with roughing penalties and we end the second period with four on four hockey, which is how it ends. The score after two periods is 2-1 for Carolina, and the shots in the second were twelve each.

The Maple Leafs are waking up. but still have a long way to go based on the Hurricanes play.

The remainder of the four on four plays out as the third period begins, but no one makes an impact there and we return to five on five in short order.

There’s more urgency in the first seven minutes of the third from the Maple Leafs, better positioning and zone entries give the losing team a better chance at tying the game. Travis Dermott almost scores, and Nazem Kadri finds himself perfectly placed in front of the net until he gets shoved into Peter Mrazek and a pile up ensures on top of the Hurricanes goalie.

After an offensive zone face off, Tyler Ennis finds an open William Nylander who waits for his chance and shoots but Mrazek gets the glove up in time. This is followed up by another chance that gets the Scotiabank Arena crowd on their feet, but the puck is saved and sent down to the Leafs end where John Tavares takes a Justin Williams stick to the jaw (no call, of course).

In the Leafs end there’s a puck battle in the corner with Williams and Dermott, and Jordan Staal comes racing into the zone off a line change. He gets a pass and shoots from the slot, scores, and regains Carolina’s two goal lead.


Score is 3-1 Carolina.

The Hurricanes start to lock down the play, trying to hold onto their lead and get the two points they need in their close race for one of the final playoff spots. The Blue Jackets lost tonight, so this win is huge for Carolina.] with the Canadiens also beating the Lightning.

With three minutes left Andrei Svechnikov walks into the Leafs zone undefended and gets a shot from the face off dot then the rebound before any Leafs come in to play defense.

The Maple Leafs pull Sparks with 2:35 left in the period, and get a chance in the Hurricanes end before the puck goes down towards the empty net. Calle Rosen keeps the Hurricanes from scoring, but the team gets stuck trying to move the puck out of their end, and Mitch Marner runs in to play goalie as the Leafs move the puck out.

Sebasatien Aho knocks the puck down towards the empty net after the final minute of the game begins, and Brock McGinn directs the puck to the goal to gives the Hurricanes an empty net goal.

Since it’s the final minute of the game the NHL initiates a review of the goal to see if it was offside, and after spending more time reviewing the empty net goal than there is on the clock, the NHL deems the goal offside, so we stay at 3-1.

After the face off Dougie Hamilton scores the empty net goal.

Such a great use of time, that review was.

The game ends 4-1. The Hurricanes stay just above the Canadiens for the final wild card playoff spot.

Game notes:

  • Tonight was Travis Dermott’s 100th NHL game
  • The Maple Leafs traded Greg McKegg to the Panthers for Zach Hyman, won the trade./

The Maple Leafs next play Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning.