Hurricanes come home, top Maple Leafs 3-1

calexander@newsobserver.comFebruary 14, 2013 

— The Carolina Hurricanes took a slightly different approach to their first home game following a 12-day road trip.

Treat it like one last road game.

Apparently, it worked. The Canes, 4-1-1 on the trip, returned to PNC Arena on Thursday to top the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1.

A time-honored hockey adage is that a team often is sluggish after a long spell on the road -- that it more or less exhales, enjoys the creature comforts of home and often doesn't play well. But after a scoreless first period, the Canes (8-4-1) got second-period goals from resurgent Joe Corvo and Jussi Jokinen, and a third from Jordan Staal to take control of the game.

"That's a common trend (and) the coaches did a really good job of addressing that in our meetings," said Canes goalie Dan Ellis, who got the start and earned his third win. "They constantly made us aware that, 'Guys, it's almost like an extra road game. Let's approach it with the mentality you want to finish the road trip strong, even though you're at home.'

"That's what we did. We gave a good push and got a good win against a hot team."

The Leafs (8-6-0) had won four straight and were 6-1 on the road this season. But other than Nazem Kadri's power-play goal in the second period, off a tip, they couldn't find a way to get anything else past Ellis.

The Hurricanes played without defensemen Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason, both out with lower-body injuries. Carolina coach Kirk Muller also made veteran forward Chad LaRose a healthy scratch.

But defenseman Michal Jordan, recalled Thursday from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, stepped in and was solid in his NHL debut. So were the others on the Canes' back end.

"The adjustments we've made over the past few games really shows the way we're capable of playing," said Ellis, who had 22 saves. "Especially defensively. We kept everything to the outside. We boxed them out. We cleared away rebounds.

"I really like the style of play we've adapted to over the road trip. That's what road trips do -- they give you a chance to learn about yourself .. and what you can do when you're in difficult circumstances."

Corvo started the six-game trip as a healthy extra, sitting out the first three games. That was difficult to accept and gave him time to reflect, and once back in the lineup the veteran defenseman has responded with two goals and three assists in the past four games.

"I had to eliminate all the hesitation out of my game," Corvo said. "I think that was holding me back -- a lot of negative thoughts. It gave me time to think where I was at, which way I could go with my career. I could keep going on that path and probably be retired by next year or fight against it and show people 35 isn't old and that I can still play."

Corvo was picked to replace Gleason as an alternate captain in the game and wear an "A" on his sweater. It wasn't something he took lightly.

"I was right from the start trying to be sharp because some of the younger guys are watching me," he said. "They see me ready and they feed off that."

Six minutes into the second period, Corvo swept in to collect a loose puck and fire it past Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens, who stopped 30 shots and kept Toronto in it. Eric Staal, who kept the puck alive in the zone, on his knees, picked up the assist to push his point streak to 11 games.

Kadri's goal tied it 1-1, but Jokinen scored when Scrivens attempted to lunge at the puck to his right, only to nudge it out to Jokinen. After going pointless the first nine games, Jokinen now has goals in each of the last two.

The Canes final goal came on a rush into the zone. Jeff Skinner, who had two assists in the game, got off a shot from the right side that Scrivens stopped, but Jordan Staal hammered in a shot from the left circle. It was Staal's second goal of the season and his first at home as a Hurricane.

But this night, everyone in the lineup contributed. Kevin Westgarth dropped the gloves and took on Leafs heavyweight Colton Orr in the first, juicing up the sellout crowd and the Canes got the followup win at home they wanted.

"We had it going," Muller said.

See the box score from the game

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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