Leafs stave off Hurricanes comeback in 6-3 win

 

 
 
 
 
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul, left, scores the game winning goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters, left, during third period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday March 28, 2013.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul, left, scores the game winning goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters, left, during third period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday March 28, 2013.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO -- Joffrey Lupul scored with 3:10 remaining and Jay McClement and Nikolai Kulemin added empty-net goals as the Toronto Maple Leafs staved off a Carolina comeback, defeating the Hurricanes 6-3 in NHL play Thursday.

Lupul raced past Joe Corvo and then beat Justin Peters for his seventh of the season, shifting the puck from his backhand before tucking in the winning goal. All his goals have come in five games since returning from a broken forearm.

McClement sealed the deal with his sixth at 19:15, followed by Kulemin's sixth at 19:57.

Tyler Bozak, Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Toronto (19-12-4) before 19,236. Phil Kessel had two assists for the Leafs, adding to his recent hot streak at the Air Canada Centre -- he has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his last nine home games.

Toronto outshot Carolina 36-22.

Eric Staal, Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin also scored for the Hurricanes (15-15-2), who rallied from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 early in the third. The loss extended Carolina's winless streak to seven games.

Jordan Staal's goal at 6:55 in the third came made it 3-2 after two Leafs ran into each other in the defensive end. Staal cruised past both and roofed the puck for his eighth of the season. Tuomo Ruutu got the assist for his 300th NHL point.

Kessel, who was flying all night, hit the crossbar seconds later. Lupul had a gilt-edged chance on the power play later in the period but was unable to stuff the puck in from the edge of the crease.

Phaneuf tied it up at 3-3 at 14:35 with a shot from the point for his seventh of the season after Carolina had survived a frenetic power play that saw Lupul and Bozak unable to stuff the puck in from close range.

Peters became the third Hurricanes goalie to face the Leafs this season. Cam Ward (sprained MCL) and Dan Ellis (leg laceration) played in Carolina's two earlier wins over Toronto.

James Reimer was in goal for Toronto, his sixth start in the last seven games.

Peters was by far the busier goalie in the first period and looked sharp. Toronto outshot the visitors 13-7 with Kessel producing five of those for the Leafs. One of his got past Peters, flipping over his shoulder and was slowly trickling towards the goal-line before it was cleared away by alert defenceman Joni Pitkanen.

Bozak opened the scoring at 3:58 with his 10th of the season, tapping his stick on the ice to get Kessel's attention at the side of the goal after some fierce forechecking penned the Hurricanes in their own end. Kessel saw Bozak and sent a seeing-eye pass through the crease that eluded two Carolina defenders before the Leafs centre tapped it in.

Seconds later, Toronto's Frazer McLaren and Kevin Westgarth were fighting at centre ice with the Hurricanes forward getting the better of the tussle. McLaren, who officially spent one second on the ice before the fight, had to head to the dressing room for repairs. His cheek, carved open by a slash in a March 6 win over Ottawa, had split like a ripe tomato.

Westgarth emerged from the box to Carolina sticks banging on the boards. McLaren, with a face only a mother could love, was back on the ice later in the period.

The Leafs came into the game leading the league in fighting majors (33). In contrast, the Hurricanes had just 10 fighting majors.

Franson scored on the power play at 9:03 to make it 2-0, firing a shot through Peters from inside the faceoff circle for his third of the season, on a Kessel feed.

Play opened up in a second period that saw a string of minor penalties. Reimer robbed the Hurricanes on one, somehow parrying the puck away while lying on his side during a delayed penalty.

Eric Staal scored shorthanded on 11:29 after Semin, from inside his own zone, found him streaking in at the Toronto blue-line. The Carolina captain beat Reimer between the legs for his 15th of the season.

The Leafs had hit the post just seconds before.

Semin tied it up at 15:02, ripping a wrist shot past Reimer with Kessel in the box for too many men on the ice. It was the ninth of the season for the slick Russian winger who signed a US$35-million, five-year contract extension on Monday.

Carolina defenceman Jay Harrison was penalized late in the period for boarding, crumpling Nazem Kadri in the end boards.

NOTES -- Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner was a healthy scratch, giving way to John-Michael Liles who was returning from an ankle injury ... The game was the first of a three-stop Canadian road trip for the Hurricanes, who play in Winnipeg on Saturday and Montreal on Monday.

 
 
 
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Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul, left, scores the game winning goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters, left, during third period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday March 28, 2013.
 

Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul, left, scores the game winning goal past Carolina Hurricanes goalie Justin Peters, left, during third period NHL action in Toronto on Thursday March 28, 2013.

Photograph by: Nathan Denette, THE CANADIAN PRESS

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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