TORONTO (AP)—There were so many reasons for Paul Maurice to smile Monday night that a victory over his former team or the end of a five-game losing streak didn’t even top the list.
It’s something he didn’t do much while coaching the Maple Leafs the last two seasons—choosing instead to keep his kids away from the high-pressure environment he worked in. The mood was cheerful as the Hurricanes packed up their things on this night and Maurice’s boys were thrilled to follow their dad around for a few minutes.
The moment of levity couldn’t have come at a much better time for Maurice, who has acknowledged that games against his former team mean a little more. He didn’t feel comfortable Monday until the final buzzer.
“When I was walking off the bench and neither of the referees were waving that we had to come back, that’s when I knew it was over,” Maurice said.
Cam Ward stopped 35 shots for his second shutout of the season. It was especially important because he was starting for the 12th straight game— meaning he was in goal for Carolina’s entire five-game skid.
“The way things have been going these past five games those pucks probably would have went in,” Ward said. “It was nice tonight to be rewarded with some good bounces and get the win.
“This was a big win for our hockey club and hopefully we can build off it.”
It was more of the same for the Maple Leafs. They’ve gone 127 minutes, 51 seconds since scoring on home ice, and they lost for the 10th time in 13 games.
Toronto coach Ron Wilson was most upset with a couple of bad plays that led to Carolina’s goals. Kaberle was in the penalty box for clearing the puck over the glass from his own end when Joe Corvo opened the scoring at 16:26 of the second period.
Chad LaRose scored with just 4.9 seconds left in the period. Alexei Ponikarovsky had a great chance to clear the puck from his own zone, but put it on the stick of Matt Cullen instead. Cullen quickly found LaRose all alone in front and it was 2-0 after 40 minutes.
“It’s inexcusable, the couple mistakes we made that led to their goals,” Wilson said.
Toronto came out with more desperation in the third period but Ward was equal to the challenge—getting his pad on Hagman’s shot from in close before turning away Ian White’s slap shot a few moments later. He later stopped Ponikarovsky’s chance from the top of the crease to preserve the shutout.
The solid outing couldn’t have come at a much better time for Ward.
“He needed to have this game for his own career,” Maurice said. “He’s going to have to play a lot of games (and) he’s going to have to learn how to conserve on certain nights.
“Being good for him will never be good enough for our franchise or his talent. He’s going to have to be better.”
The Hurricanes are one point behind Pittsburgh for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Carolina visits the Penguins on Tuesday in its final game before this weekend’s All-Star break.
While a win against the Maple Leafs meant something personally to Maurice, it was just as important to his players for other reasons.
“We just had to win a game,” Maurice said. “We were going so well, feeling so good, and then boom—we got beat five straight times and you’re wondering what’s going south on us.
“This was a big, big win.”
The loss was only part of the bad news the Maple Leafs received on Monday.
Wilson said after the morning skate that he expected to have defenseman Mike Van Ryn back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 18, but a failed test kept him on the sidelines. He’ll need more time to recover from his second concussion of the season.
Toronto heard a few boos from the home crowd again.
The Maple Leafs face Boston at home on Wednesday before getting a couple of days off for the All-Star break.
“We have to regroup and get it back the next game,” Ponikarovsky said.
Attendance was 19,018. … Eric Staal played his 301st consecutive game for Carolina. … The Maple Leafs dropped to 2-6-1 in January. … Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour entered the game with an NHL-worst rating of minus-29. He’s a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defensive forward. … Carolina is the least-penalized team in the league. … Toronto F Nik Antropov has gone 14 games without a goal.