Matthews, Marner spoil Andersen’s return in Hurricanes’ 4-3 OT loss

Carolina earned one point in a back-and-forth game between Eastern Conference powers

Maple Leafs center John Tavares celebrates teammate Mitch Marner's (16) game-winning goal against Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen in overtime of Toronto's 4-3 home win Monday. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press via AP)

There were plenty of storylines ahead of the Hurricanes’ game Monday in Toronto.

It was a matchup between two of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, one that could be revisited in the spring.

It was also Hurricanes goalie Frederik Andersen’s first game back in Toronto since he signed with Carolina in the offseason. In the other net was Petr Mrazek, playing his former team for the first time since he made a similar summer move to the Leafs.

It was also Carolina’s first game at Scotiabank Arena since David Ayres came out of the stands and entered history almost two years ago.

But there was no storybook ending Monday. Instead, it was a showcase of what the Maple Leafs expect from two of their $10 million players.

Auston Matthews erased one Hurricanes’ lead by scoring twice in the second period to give Toronto the lead, and Mitch Marner tied the game in third before winning it 4-3 overtime for the Maple Leafs.

It was a matter of Toronto finishing their chances and Carolina not converting enough of theirs.

“I thought we had a million chances to score goals that we that we didn’t capitalize on,” Hurricanes defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “We still had three and plenty of chances to win. Disappointing, but I think our effort was really good.”

It was a game of punches and counterpunches between two of the NHLs’ top prizefighters.

After Matthews scored twice in just over three minutes — his 30th and 31st of the year — late in the second period to give Toronto its first lead at 2-1 heading into the second intermission, Carolina took just eight seconds in the third period to tie the game back up.

After a faceoff win by Jordan Staal, DeAngelo jumped into the play and rushed into the Toronto zone, firing a shot that beat Mrazek (28 saves) to the far side to knot the score.

“Kind of just a broken play a little bit on the faceoff there,” DeAngelo said. “I thought it was coming to me, it went to (Jaccob Slavin), so the winger jumps, so I just tried to jump around him. … A lot of teams play man-to-man, and sometimes you get a lucky bounce and you get in.”

DeAngelo then helped put Carolina back ahead, jumping into the play, taking a drop pass from Steven Lorentz and firing a shot on net. The rebound kicked to Derek Stepan, who put the puck in the net for his seventh goal of the season and a 3-2 Hurricanes advantage at 9:23 of the third.

The lead was short-lived. A failed clearing attempt by the Hurricanes led to a shot on goal by Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren. Andersen gave up an uncharacteristic rebound, and Marner snuck behind the Carolina defense and shot in the loose puck to tie the game again with under six minutes left in regulation.

“I had a good game up until that last little play that I mishandled, and it obviously sucks,” Andersen said of Marner’s first goal.

Marner then won it in overtime, collecting another rebound — this one off a Morgan Rielly spinning backhand — and putting it past Andersen (28 saves) at 2:51 of the 3-on-3 play.

It was a disappointing return for Andersen, thought it was done in front of just 500 fans due to COVID-19 restrictions put in place by the province of Ontario.

“I think it’s tough to get too emotional in these circumstances,” Andersen said of playing in a mostly empty arena. “It was nice of them to kind of say thanks for the time here, and I moved on and focused on the game again. So yeah, that’s a little bit weird. But eventually the game’s got to come first.”

It wasn’t all bad for Carolina, which got to shake off the All-Star break and play in a high-paced game as it prepares to have 38 more games in the next 78 days, continuing with Tuesday’s game in Ottawa.

“It was a good game. I thought we played well,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “I’m not disappointed at all in our effort or anything. Obviously, you’d love the two points, but for not having any power plays and I just felt we created a lot of offense … we just didn’t cash in on, It could’ve been a different game there.”

The frantic pace started early, but the first period ended with just one goal.

After Staal forced a turnover on the forecheck, the puck got to the right point to defenseman Ian Cole. Cole spotted Niederreiter in front with position on defenseman T.J. Brodie. He fired a shot where Niederreiter could attempt a redirection, which the Swiss winger did for his 14th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead at 13:08 of the opening period.

Notes: Teuvo Teravainen (injury) and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (COVID protocol) did not play for Carolina. Ethan Bear was a healthy scratch. … Brendan Smith had the Hurricanes’ third fight of the season, a first period bout with Wayne Simmonds that favored the Leafs forward. It was the 27th regular season fight of Smith’s career and first with the Hurricanes. … Carolina had just 16 seconds of power play time compared to 5:02 for Toronto.