It's become a woebegone season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Carolina Hurricanes added to those woes Friday.
The Canes finished off a season sweep of the Leafs, winning 2-1 at PNC Arena as the Staal brothers -- Eric and Jordan -- each scored and goalie Cam Ward won in his 499th game.
"We weren't as sharp and on our toes as we have been in other games," Eric Staal said. "But we still found a way to win and there have been plenty of times this year where we found a way to lose."
Not against the Leafs. The Canes beat Toronto 4-1 in December when the Leafs had reeled off six straight wins, beginning their slide. Carolina won 4-1 again in January in Toronto, in a game in which Eric Staal fought Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf after Phaneuf put a big hit on Jordan Staal.
Late in the game, Eric Staal fired a hard slapshot in Phaneuf's direction in scoring an empty-net goal.
Phaneuf is injured and did not play Friday, but there was talk of possible retaliation from the Leafs against Staal. Retaliation never came.
"It was so long ago. It's a different time of year and there's a lot of different things going on," Eric Staal said. "I think that's the least of their worries -- that type of stuff."
Eric Staal had a power-play goal in the first period and assisted on Jordan Staal's even-strength goal later in the period. Jordan Staal's goal, on a redirection from the slot, came 16 seconds after the Leafs had tied the score 1-1 on rookie forward Brandon Kozun's first career goal.
Jiri Tlusty assisted on both Canes goals as the Staal line put in strong forechecking shifts. Ward, meanwhile, was again cool in net, making 23 saves and helped by some active stickwork and sound positional play in front of him.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey was given the fireman's helmet as team MVP. In addition to his work in the defensive zone, Hainsey helped the Canes kill off all our penalties -- three in the second period -- without allowing a shot on goal.
"We got better defensively as it went," Hainsey said. "The first period we spent a little too much time in our zone. We would have liked to have possessed it more but they're playing a little more of defensive style and make it a lot harder to create. They're not trading chances as they were previously and it was more of a grinding, not-a-lot-of-room kind of game."
The Hurricanes (21-29-7) were coming off a 4-1 loss Tuesday to the New York Islanders. As for the Leafs (23-31-5), they've been in a 4-21-2 free fall since the first loss to the Canes, costing Randy Carlyle his job as coach and leaving the team in disarray.
"They're obviously in a tough spot," Eric Staal said. "Mentally it looks like it's draining for them. But we're no different. We've had a tough year and I think you saw that tonight."
Canes coach Bill Peters said the game generally lacked emotion or desperation. There were few big hits and only a few hard glares.
Peters said the Staal line was "big and heavy" and said a key was scoring the second goal quickly after Kozun tied it for the Leafs.
Goalie James Reimer had some hustling saves for the Leafs to keep it close. Midway though the first, he stopped Jeff Skinner in a one-on-one confrontation.
Eric Staal's goal came when defenseman Justin Faulk whipped a shot from the point and Staal's tipped it in for his 18th of the season.
Jordan Staal's goal came with one minute, 51 seconds left in the first. It was his third in 21 games and first game-winner of the season.
It was the eighth time the Staals have scored in the same game. The Canes are 6-1-1 in those games.
"They've got some brotherly chemistry," Ward said, smiling. "They're big, strong and dominant."