Stalberg scores SHG, Canes top Leafs for 5th straight win

Viktor Stalberg got a head start, pulled away from the defenders and buried his short-handed breakaway try.

Cam Ward and his teammates took it from there, keeping the Carolina Hurricanes on a season-changing roll.

Stalberg scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period, lifting Carolina over the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-1 on Tuesday night for its fifth straight victory.

Jeff Skinner also scored for Carolina, which improved to 8-6-4. Ward stopped 25 shots.

"I think we're obviously building some momentum here," Ward said, "and just carrying it into the next game."

Frederik Andersen made 27 saves for Toronto, which lost for only the third time in 10 games at home. Jake Gardiner had the Leafs' goal.

Stalberg got the deciding tally against his former team after Tyler Bozak's pass was picked off in the neutral zone. Stalberg entered the zone alone, beating Andersen for his third goal of the season.

"That's obviously a bonus to score short-handed," Ward said. "That's the kind of speed that Stalberg has. He really showed it there."

The night began with a thud on the Leafs side when star rookie Mitch Marner blocked a hard shot and absorbed a nasty blow to the face, both courtesy of Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin. Briefly unable to put pressure on his left leg, Marner wheeled himself awkwardly to the bench and then hobbled around uncomfortably behind it.

The 19-year-old, who is second on the team with 16 points, missed only a shift before returning to action. He finished the period with two shots, including a dangerous chance off the rush as the frame wound down.

Gardiner opened the scoring a short while later, blowing a point shot past Ward. A hearty screen from rookie winger Connor Brown made the shot difficult to see for the Hurricanes goaltender, who's been rolling of late. Ward came into Tuesday's action with a 5-1-2 record and .944 save percentage in November.

His resurgence, following a rough October, has been key to the Hurricanes season-high winning streak.

The Hurricanes evened the score at 1 on a late-period power play. Derek Ryan's initial attempt on the opposite side of the goal floated over Andersen and off the crossbar, eventually nudged into the net by the left skate of Skinner. The 24-year-old leads the Hurricanes with six power-play points and 16 points overall this season.

The Leafs nearly gave up another short-handed goal moments after Stalberg's score when Elias Lindholm broke in against Andersen after a puck bounced over Gardiner's stick at the blue-line.

The Leafs nearly tied it in the opening seconds of the third period when Marner clanked a shot off the post during a mad scramble in front. A late period power play yielded plenty of zone time, but only a single shot.

"I think these are games we have to get better in and find ways to win," Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "We've won more open games than we've won tight games."

NOTES: Toronto has just one win on the road (1-5-3). ... Auston Matthews has gone 13 games without a goal, with his last nearly a month ago on Oct. 25. He had four shots in 20 minutes in this one.


Hurricanes: Test streak at Eastern Conference leading Montreal on Thursday night.

Maple Leafs: Plays at New Jersey on Wednesday night.