The game had been decided Sunday in Toronto when the Leafs' Dion Phaneuf knocked the puck down the ice toward an empty net, but Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey refused to give up on it.
With the Air Canada Centre crowd roaring, Hainsey skated hard after the puck. It proved to a futile pursuit as the puck wound up in the net and Hainsey knocked the cage off its moorings with seven seconds left.
In a way, Hainsey's hustle at the end of a 5-2 loss was symbolic of all the Canes have experienced in their five-game winless streak. The effort was there but it wasn't enough, and the result not what the Hurricanes wanted.
Hainsey on Monday shrugged off the play, saying, "If you're a defenseman you're trained not to give up goals." But it was hard arguing against the bigger point -- that he competed down to the final seconds of a 60-minute game, something needed if the Canes are to end their slide.
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"Everyone is looking for that," Hainsey said. "The hook to that statement is no one is perfect. No team plays perfectly and the key is limiting your mistakes better than the other team and capitalizing on the ones you get.
"Having said that, there are certain points of the game where you need to play a certain way. We took a few missteps in that department. But our effort overall? It's hard to get into is it for 57 minutes or is it 60 minutes."
Hainsey noted the Canes have outchanced opponents consistently over the past five games. Carolina had 43 shots against Toronto and 41 in a loss to the Washington Capitals.
The most painful loss was against the Columbus Blue Jackets last week in the final game before the Christmas break. The Canes led 3-2 with about four minutes to play in regulation, only to have the Jackets score twice to snatch away a 4-3 win.
The Canes then took a lead into the third period against Pittsburgh on Friday but lost the lead and then the game in overtime.
"If you go over our previous five, we played a great game against Washington and their goalie played tremendous," Hainsey said. "Sometimes you have to tip your hat on something like that. We didn't play great in Tampa but our goaltender (Justin Peters) stole us a point. Played a good game against Columbus, had a lead late, cost ourselves that one. For 55 minutes we were in control and they really had zero going into the third period.
"The point I'm getting at is we've had some little things that have caught up with us. We've got to learn from those little things but continue on with the big picture with the way we're playing, because we are generating plenty of chances. If we keep doing that, things will change for us."
Hainsey believes the Canes are as capable of winning five in a row as being winless in five straight.
"Absolutely," he said. "We've outplayed teams over that stretch but the results unfortunately are what counts. For various reasons at the end of the night we haven't gotten that result but there are things that are easily identifiable and things we can improve on.
"We're right there. We're right there in these games. But when we have games won, like against Columbus, we have to put it away or it will burn you at the end of the year. There's no common theme here, just little things we need to polish up."
Despite the losses, the Canes still are in the thick of things in the Metro Division with 37 points, three points out of third place.
"Everybody is all bunched up," Hainsey said. "It's an interesting situation with six teams as close as they are. My guess is we will all be very close until the end."