TORONTO It took a big break for the Carolina Hurricanes to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Thursday.
It also took another big pushback and third-period comeback.
In a bizarre twist, the Leafs lost starting goaltender James Reimer to an injury 32 seconds into the game. Even more startling was the way the Canes scored the winning goal.
With the score tied 2-2, Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey whipped the puck off the boards and out of the Carolina zone. Nearly everyone in the Air Canada Centre, including Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, believed icing would be called against the Canes.
But Canes forward Radek Dvorak didn't give up on the puck. Racing down the ice, he beat Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly to the face-off dot in the left circle to nullify icing as the puck took a wicked kick off the end boards.
Then, an even more stunning turn: goalie Jonathan Bernier, who entered the game when Reimer was hurt, had the puck go off the end boards, off his skate at the post and into the net with six minutes, 56 seconds left in regulation.
"With hybrid icing you never know," Dvorak said. "I saw the puck and I had good speed, so I tried to get in on the forecheck. Luckily for us, the puck went in."
Bernier called it a "bad mistake" and accepted the blame.
"I looked up to see where my options were," he said. "The puck was probably spinning a lot and I misjudged it."
Defenseman Ryan Murphy's first NHL goal, on a power play, and an even-strength score by captain Eric Staal tied it 2-2 in the third. The Canes (3-2-3) rallied for a pair of third-period goals Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks, only to lose 3-2 in a shootout, but picked up their second road victory of the season as goalie Cam Ward stopped 24 shots.
While the Leafs had gotten off to a 6-1 start this season, Caryle had bemoaned their inconsistent play. After Thursday's game and the weird goal, he said, "I think the hockey gods got back at us."
As for the Canes, they were tempted to say the "hockey gods" were finally being kind.
The NHL instituted the hybrid icing rule this season in part because of Joni Pitkanen's injury last season. The defenseman suffered a broken heel bone as he roared down ice to force an icing call, crashing into the boards, and will not play this season as he continues to recover.
"Kind of ironic, isn't it?" Canes coach Kirk Muller said. "Pitkanen's situation was the one that really put this (rule) into effect -- the final straw."
Hainsey said he has had some unusual goals in his career. But never one quite like the winner, which earned Ward an assist.
"A lot of bad things actually happened," Hainsey said of the play. "We called a breakout one way and went the other way. (Jeff Skinner) got called off for a change, so he let it go, so it was going to be an icing.
"It's just one of those lucky things that happens over time."
Hainsey said he had turned and was yelling in disgust when the puck went off Bernier. Muller said he turned to assistant coach John MacLean and said, "What just happened?" MacLean's answer: "I think it's going to count."
Caryle said he was told by the referee that Bernier left the net to play the puck, noting, "That was incorrect. He was in the crease. But that's the way it goes."
Reimer had to be helped off the ice after a collision with Leafs forward Josh Leivo as Reimer tried to corral a rebound. Caryle deemed Reimer's injury a "headache" but gave no other details.
Leivo and Joffrey Lupul had second-period goals for the Leafs -- also Leivo's first in the NHL. But Murphy countered early in the third with a shot from the point, and Staal's shot from the slot tied it almost seven minutes into the final period.
"It was good to see our guys get a break because we've been pushing hard," Muller said. "I thought we had a good game and sometimes you need a break to get a big win. And we got it."