Toronto Maple Leafs Andrew Raycroft deflects a shot during first period NHL action against the Carolina Hurricanes in Toronto Tuesday. (CP/Adrian Wyld)
When the Hurricanes signed autographs in the hockey shrine Monday afternoon, video showed them winning the Stanley Cup last June. Goaltender Cam Ward said he and his teammates got so pumped up that they wanted to rush to a rink and play a game right away.
They had to wait a day, but beating the Leafs was well worth the wait. Ward was outstanding with a 29-save effort and Scott Walker, Eric Belanger, Eric Staal and Justin Williams scored as the Hurricanes flashed championship form.
Bryan McCabe scored for the Leafs, and Andrew Raycroft made 26 saves.
The Leafs, already missing five forwards, lost Ian White in the second period when the defenceman injured his left shoulder.
The Hurricanes remained tied with Ottawa for fifth place in the NHL's Eastern Conference, while the Leafs fell out of the top eight - and they now face the toughest segment of their schedule with nine of their next 11 games on the road beginning Thursday in Buffalo.
McCabe's ninth goal of the season accounted for all the scoring in the first period. Alex Steen took a wild shot from a corner in the Carolina end and the puck struck Niclas Wallin's skate blade and slid into the middle of the zone. McCabe's slap shot buried the puck in a top corner of the net at 15:24.
During a two-man Carolina advantage two minutes later, a Rod Brind'Amour shot had Raycroft beaten but the puck struck a post.
Walker's 13th tied it 1:51 into the second period. Chad LaRose passed from the side of the net. The puck caromed off a stick and Walker swung at it as if he were a baseball player. He might have had a double had the net not stopped it.
Ben Ondrus was assessed a boarding penalty 33 seconds later when he hit Andrew Ladd from behind. Ladd was unhurt but it should have been a major penalty. Regardless, the Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead on the power play when Belanger deflected in a Brind'Amour slap shot at 2:51 for his eighth goal.
White was injured with five minutes left in the period when he crashed into a corner with LaRose as the two chased a puck.
Staal made it 3-1 at 18:17 when he ripped a slap shot past Raycroft for his 19th. The Leafs were again two men short.
The Hurricanes' close checking ensured the announced crowd of 19,447 had little to cheer about in the closing 20 minutes. It was a gritty performance by a team playing without four injured defencemen. The 'Canes were 15-0-0 when leading after two periods. Make that 16-0-0.
Ward was just as good as he was in earning playoff MVP honours last spring, and his teammates played smart. They took only two minor penalties in the game.
Williams scored an empty netter with 15.3 seconds left. It was his 21st goal of the season.
Notes: On power plays, Carolina was 2-for-6 and Toronto was 0-for-2 . . . The Hurricanes hadn't won in Air Canada Centre since Feb. 23, 2004 . . . The Leafs were without forwards Mike Peca (broken leg), Darcy Tucker (foot), Kyle Wellwood (groin), Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder) and Nike Antropov (sprained ankle) . . . The Hurricanes were without defencemen Glen Wesley (lower body), Bret Hedican (finger surgery), Tim Gleason (broken foot) and Frantisek Kaberle (shoulder surgery) . . . The Leafs entered the game ranked fifth in the league in power-play efficiency (46 goals in 232 attempts, 19.8 per cent) and 18th in penalty killing (44 goals allowed in 234 short-handed situations, 81.2 per cent) . . . D Dennis Seidenberg, acquired Monday from Phoenix for F Kevyn Adams, played his first game for Carolina. He was in Dallas with the Coyotes when he was advised of the trade. He had to fly to Phoenix to pick up his passport - he's a German - and took a red-eye flight that landed him in Toronto at 7 a.m. . . . Former Leafs coach Tom Watt is a regular at Leafs home games working as a pro scout for the Florida Panthers . . . Pat Verbeek was in to scout for the Detroit Red Wings.