Defensive Struggles Continue For Leafs
RALEIGH, N.C. - Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller wasn't sure how his team would respond after Tuesday's game at Buffalo was postponed by a blizzard.
With the way Carolina is playing right now, it is going to take more than a change in plans to throw off the Hurricanes' rhythm.
Jordan Staal had a goal and three assists, and Jeff Skinner extended his offensive surge with a goal and an assist to lead the Hurricanes to a 6-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
It was Carolina's fifth consecutive win.
"That game cancelled in Buffalo gave us an extra day or two of rest," Muller said. "I think it really helped us. We had fresh legs and everyone contributing."
John-Michael Liles, Patrick Dwyer, Zach Boychuk and Elias Lindholm also scored for the Hurricanes. Liles was playing against his former team for the first time - Carolina sent defenceman Tim Gleason to Toronto for Liles on Jan. 1.
"It's just nice to be wanted and to feel like I have a place," Liles said. "It allows me to be confident and play my game. I think we have a great group of guys on the team - they've welcomed me, and it's been a nice fit so far."
Skinner's goal was his 17th in his last 17 games, and he improved his point streak to a career-high six games, with seven goals and five assists in that stretch.
Lindholm had three points in his first game back with Carolina after playing for Sweden in the World Junior Championship.
Anton Khudobin made 25 saves for the Hurricanes to improve his record to 6-0-0. Khudobin missed more than two months earlier this season with an ankle injury.
"This game was, by far, the easiest game," Khudobin said.
Toronto has lost three in a row by a combined score of 18-5 after defeating Detroit in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
"We are standing still," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "We are watching teams skate. We are not engaged in the hockey game at the level that is required to give ourselves a chance at success."
The Hurricanes took immediate control of the game.
Boychuk opened the scoring 2:33 in, when his backhand shot deflected off the stick of Gleason and beat Reimer. It was Boychuk's first goal of the year.
The Hurricanes made it 2-0 exactly 6 minutes later following a long stretch of sustained pressure on the power play. The puck eventually got to Lindholm, who set up Staal for a one-timer in the slot. Reimer stopped that shot, but Skinner cleaned up the rebound.
Following lopsided losses to the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders in its previous two games, Toronto appeared lethargic for much of the night, but the Maple Leafs did manage to close the deficit to 2-1 a little less than 6 minutes after Skinner's goal.
Mason Raymond won the puck on the forecheck behind the Hurricanes net and centred to Lupul, who scored from the top of the crease.
Carolina reclaimed its two-goal lead with 2:27 left in the first period on Dwyer's goal. After another long stretch of offensive zone pressure, Dwyer scored when his wrist shot through traffic went through Reimer's legs.
"You've just got to find a way to make a save there to keep your team in it," Reimer said.
The Hurricanes then made the score 4-1 early in the second when Liles scored on a snap shot on a 3-on-1 break. It was the first goal for the defenceman since he was traded to Carolina.
Staal added a short-handed goal 25 seconds into the third period, and Lindholm finished the scoring with a 5-on-3 goal in the final 70 seconds.
NOTES: Carolina played its second straight game without captain Eric Staal, who has a lower-body injury. ... The Hurricanes were playing for the first time since Sunday after Tuesday's game in Buffalo was postponed because of a blizzard. ... Gleason was honoured with a video montage in the first period and received a hearty ovation from the crowd.