Aho's late goal lifts Hurricanes past Maple Leafs 5-3
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brent Burns (8) fires the puck past Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl, left, and goaltender Matt Murray, right, for a goal during the first period during an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 25, 2023, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
Bob Sutton, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, March 26, 2023 7:49AM EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Sebastian Aho scored his team-leading 32nd goal of the season with 2:26 remaining to rescue the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.
Aho’s goal came 32 seconds after Auston Matthews’ second goal for Toronto tied the game. Teuvo Teravainen added an empty-net goal.
“We found a way,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose team was outshot for the first time in 14 games.
“The first two games we played that team, I thought we deserved much better. (This game) we didn’t deserve that, but sometimes it evens out.”
Brent Burns, Jordan Staal and Stefan Noesen also scored for Carolina, which won for the fourth time in its last eight games to maintain first place in Metropolitan Division. Jesper Fast and Martin Necas both had two assists.
Pyotr Kochetkov made 41 saves for his first victory in his last three outings. The Hurricanes relied heavily on Kochetkov, who became just the second rookie in franchise history with 41 or more saves in a victory.
“They took over and we weren’t smart enough,” Aho said. “Koch-ie can’t stop all of them.”
Calle Jarnkrok had Toronto’s first goal. Matt Murray made 23 saves. Reilly Morgan provided two assists. Matthews has 36 goals this season, including eight in the last nine games.
Despite the outcome, it ranked high on a list of top performances for the Maple Leafs.
“I find it in a lot of ways to be our best game,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The back half of the first period, much of the entire second and third period, I think that’s as good as we played all season.”
The Maple Leafs outshot Carolina 28-12 across the last two periods.
“Their world-class talent took over and we just watched it happen,” Brind’Amour said.
Jarnkrok and Matthews scored eight minutes apart in the second period as Toronto erased a 2-0 deficit.
Jarnkrok notched his 18th goal, including six this month. Matthews’ unassisted tally at 12:41 of the second period gave him his 35th goal of the season.
Noesen’s go-ahead goal with 11:47 left in the third resulted when his wraparound attempt was denied by Murray. But Noesen was persistent and poked the puck across the goal line.
“That’s a typical Noesen goal there,” he said of his effort.
The 44 shots on goal matched a season-high mark for the Maple Leafs. Matthews had plenty to do with that.
Matthews registered nine shots on goal in the second period. He finished with 15 shots, tying the franchise single-game record.
“He’s right back to being one of the most dominant players in the league,” Keefe said.
The Hurricanes had no player with more than three shots.
Toronto had 33 shots through two periods, marking the most for any Carolina opponent in a full game in the last 15 games.
“Unless you have a goalie making saves, you’re going to be in trouble,” Brind’Amour said.
In a four-day span, the Hurricanes’ schedule calls for matchups against three of the other four top teams in the Eastern Conference.
“Great teams we play in a short period of time,” Aho said. “I like it. It’s a good time of year.”
The Hurricanes faced the New York Rangers on Thursday night and collide with the NHL-leading Boston Bruins on Sunday.
“This is probably the toughest all year by a mile,” Brind’Amour said.
Aho has nine game-winning goals this season.
The Hurricanes have won 36 of 45 games when scoring first this season.
The Maple Leafs won the first two meetings this season, including by 5-2 on March 17 at home.
Maple Leafs: At Nashville on Sunday.
Hurricanes: Host Boston on Sunday.