Canes Now

December 29, 2013

Canes @ Leafs

The Carolina Hurricanes are facing the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

TORONTO -- Phil Kessel has a pair of goals and Nikolai Kulemin has scored as the Leafs lead the Canes 3-2 after two periods.

Kessel had the only first-period score, on a tight-angle backhander. After Nathan Gerbe tied the score for the Canes early in the second, Kessel and Kulemin scored goals 76 seconds apart for a 3-1 lead.

The Canes picked up a 4-on-3 power-play score with 2:48 left in the second on Justin Faulk's blast from the point to make it a 3-2 game.

Gerbe ripped a shot from the left wing for his ninth of the season off a Semin pass. Faulk's goal came after the Canes' Alex Semin and the Leafs' Paul Ranger picked up penalties -- Ranger for crosschecking Semin and Semin for retaliating with a shove -- and Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf then was called for hooking.

Kessel's second goal -- his 20th of the season -- came off a pass from James van Riemsdyk. Kulemin took advantage of a Jeff Skinner turnover to get an open shot in the slot and beat Canes goalie Came Ward.

The Canes played a strong first period, moving the puck briskly, outskating and and outshooting the Leafs. And trailed 1-0.

The Leafs had few good scoring chances in the period but Kessel found a way to beat Ward. After Tyler Bozak controlled a faceoff in the Canes' zone toward the left corner, Kessel whipped a backhander from the goal-line extended that found its way into the net with 3:04 left in the first.

Toronto did not have a shot on goal until Joffrey Lupul's shot at 11:29 of the first during a Leafs power play as the Canes were quick to pucks in the defensive zone and making crisp first passes.

Kessel then had a chance to make it a 2-0 lead a half-minute after his score, but Ward stopped the Leafs star on a breakaway.

Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier had a busy first period. Eight minutes into the game, Eric Staal and then Jeff Skinner had good looks but Bernier made the stops, and Alex Semin just missed on a shot that was inches wide of the post.

Bozak rejoined the Leafs' lineup Sunday after missing 12 games with a strained oblique muscle.

The Leafs' past four games have all gone to shootouts. Toronto split the four, beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Friday.

Eric Staal is playing his 729th career game, tying the Canes captain with former defenseman Glen Wesley for most games played as a Hurricane.

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Canes beat writer Chip Alexander

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