RALEIGH — The Hurricanes had the Maple Leafs right where they wanted them.
Coming off a day of rest while Toronto traveled in for the second half of back-to-back games, Carolina faced the Leafs’ third-string goalie and held both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner without a shot on goal — the first time that has happened in their career.
It didn’t matter.
Marner set up John Tavares for a tap-in goal at 8:24 of the third period to give Toronto the lead and the Maple Leafs held on for a 3-1 win in front of 18,463 Sunday at PNC Arena.
“Against a good team like that, you take a little breath, make one little mistake, and they’re gonna make you pay,” said Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal, who shadowed Matthews all night and held the reigning Hart Trophy winner to zero shots on goal for just the sixth time in his career.
After being outworked for the first 30 minutes of the game, the Maple Leafs flipped Matthews and Tavares, their top two centers, and finally found their footing in the second period. But it was Toronto’s third line that tied the game.
The Hurricanes’ fourth line and third defense pairing got hemmed in their end and Calle Jarnkrok found a soft spot, firing a wrist shot past Frederik Andersen (18 saves) for this third goal of the season to tie the game 1-1 with 90 seconds left in the middle frame.
“We had one mess-up in the D zone there, left a guy, and that’s all it takes,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said.
Carolina came out fast in the third period but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal past Erik Kallgren (29 saves), and then Toronto forced the Hurricanes into a mistake to take the lead.
Sebastian Aho failed to get a puck deep, leading to a Toronto rush the other way. Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei broke up a Matthew Robertson pass intended for Marner, but the Maple Leafs winger poked the loose puck through Skjei’s legs and then fed across to an open Tavares for a 2-1 lead with under 12 minutes left.
Then with Carolina pressing to tie the game, William Nylander flipped a puck past Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin and then kicked it forward before reaching with his stick and deflecting the puck past Andersen for an insurance goal with 3:35 left.
“It was a weird one,” Slavin said. “I still thought he kicked it in, honestly, but I didn’t know if he touched it again. … It was just a bouncy puck.”
The Hurricanes outshot the Maple Leafs 11-4 in the first and got the early lead by converting their first power play attempt of the night.
With Toronto defenseman Justin Holl in the penalty box for cross-checking, Brent Burns set up Andrei Svechnikov for a one-timer in the right circle. The shot was blocked and hit the end boards, but Stefan Noesen quickly shot it at Kallgren from a bad angle and snuck it through the Toronto goalie for his second goal of the year and a 1-0 lead at 8:11 of the first.
Notes: Brind’Amour coached in his 300th regular season game. He has a record of 182-89-29. … Svechnikov had five missed shots in the first period and finished with six in all, plus one blocked shot that led to Noesen’s goal. He did not register a shot on goal. … Kallgren is now 2-0 in his career against the Hurricanes, having made 34 saves in Toronto’s 3-2 win over Carolina in March.