Maple Leafs skate by Hurricanes

Published 10:23 pm Friday, January 16, 2009

By By AARON BEARD, AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH—Tomas Kaberle scored the go-ahead goal on a power play late in the third period to help the Toronto Maple Leafs shake off a blown four-goal lead and beat the Carolina Hurricanes 6-4 on Thursday night.
Jason Blake had three goals and two assists for the Maple Leafs, who ended a four-game losing streak with a wild victory against a team that was just as desperate.
Ian White and Nicklas Hagman also scored for Toronto, and Vesa Toskala made 28 saves.
Kaberle scored on a one-timer with 5:25 left to make it 5-4, and Blake added an empty-net score in the final seconds.
Matt Cullen, Tuomo Ruutu, Eric Staal and Scott Walker scored for the Hurricanes, who were beaten soundly for much of the second period and trailed 4-0 before erasing that deficit with a desperate rally.
But ultimately, Toronto found a way to answer and hand Carolina its fourth straight loss.
The Leafs, who had won just once in 2009 and had lost eight of 10 games coming in, appeared to have the game in hand with a dominating effort in the second period. But Cullen scored a goal in the final 90 seconds of the period to give Carolina hope for a comeback, and the Hurricanes spent the rest of the game making it reality.
Ruutu buried a shot from the right side at 1:21 of the third, then Staal blasted his own shot from the right side on a 5-on-3 power play to pull Carolina to 4-3 and further charge a home crowd that had offered scattered boos only a half-hour earlier.
Finally, Walker completed the comeback by setting up at the top of the crease and putting a rebound past Toskala to make it 4-4 at 8:40 of the third.
But Kaberle made it all moot with his one-timer off a pass from Pavel Kubina on the power play. The puck hit Cam Ward’s glove and bounced into the net to put Toronto back in front at the 14:35 mark.
The Hurricanes lost three straight—all on the road—to follow a four-game winning streak. And they had the added motivation that it was the first game for coach Paul Maurice against his former team since returning to the Carolina bench in early December. Maurice won 76 games in two seasons with the Maple Leafs before being fired after last season.
But midway through the second period, the Maple Leafs were the only ones playing like they had something crucial on the line.
After White’s goal gave Toronto the 1-0 lead after the first, Blake pushed the lead to 2-0 when he pushed past Joni Pitkanen as he skated in on Ward and scored a wraparound goal less than 2 minutes into the period.
The Leafs kept the pressure on, with Hagman scoring from on the right side for the short putaway and a diving Blake beating Ward to a pass from Dominic Moore to make it 4-0 at 15:07 of the second.
Toronto travels to Atlanta on Friday. The Maple Leafs are 1-4 in the second half of games on back-to-back nights this season. … The Leafs’ only win in 2009 came against Ottawa on Jan. 3. … Carolina’s recent losing streak was its fourth of three games this year. … Carolina D Tim Gleason returned to the lineup after missing two games with a lower-body injury.