Maple Leafs edge Canes 3-2 behind rookie goaltender Erik Kallgren

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Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Erik Kallgren (50) makes a save as Carolina Hurricanes right winger Nino Niederreiter (21) and Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) watch the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, March 17, 2022 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

PA

No Auston Matthews? No problem for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It turns out the Leafs didn’t need the NHL’s top scorer to beat the Carolina Hurricanes, earning a 3-2 win behind rookie goaltender Erik Kallgren that quickly had Leafs fans salivating.

Kallgren shutout the Dallas Stars 4-0 on Tuesday, becoming the fourth goaltender in Leafs history to post a shutout in his first career start. The Swede still almost stopped everything against Carolina (41-14-5), making 35 saves and beating Canes goalkeeper Frederik Andersen, who entered the game with 30 wins.

Ilya Mikheyev scored in the first period and Mitch Marner in the second for the Leafs (39-17-5).

Defenseman Ethan Bear scored for the Canes in the third, moving into the slot for his fourth of the season. But the Leafs responded quickly as Ondrej Kase scored in the run for a 3-1 lead.

Carolina’s Vincent Trocheck scored in the dying seconds after the Canes pulled Andersen out for a sixth striker.

“I thought our effort was there throughout the game,” Trocheck said. “We just have to take our chances.”

The Canes finished with a 37-21 shooting advantage, but were 0-3 on three power plays that the Leafs easily snuffed out. Toronto, aggressive shorthanded. allowed five shots while getting five shorthanded shots.

Carolina hasn’t scored a power-play goal in the past four games, going 0-10.

“We’re trying to figure it out right now,” Trocheck said of the power play. “For us it’s about getting more pucks to the net, maybe playing a little more simply. But it’s something we really need to figure out here shortly before the playoffs start.

It was the second return to Toronto this season for Andersen and a second loss in Toronto for the former Leafs goaltender. The first came in overtime on Feb. 7, when COVID-19 restrictions limited crowds at Scotiabank Arena to 500. With those restrictions now lifted, the crowd was 18,134 on Thursday.

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Jason Spezza (19) swings away from an incoming puck as Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) and teammate Ian Cole (28) defend during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) Frank Gunn PA

Matthews, who has 45 goals, was serving Game 2 of a two-game suspension for a crosscheck on the neck of Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin. It could have hurt the Leafs on the power play — Toronto was 0-2 — but not in its five-on-five overall game as the Leafs forced the Canes into bad decisions and costly mistakes.

“We’re still playing strong, which is good, but we have to capitalize on our chances,” Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “You will make mistakes, but I give them credit. They capitalized and took the win.

Canes defenseman Brady Skjei had the puck with an open net and Kallgren without his racquet in the opening moments of the game, but couldn’t convert. Skjei had another good chance to start the second half denied by Kallgren.

“We just didn’t score,” Brind’Amour said. “The first shift of the game, we have an empty net. First shift in the second there is an empty net (but) a great save. You have to capitalize on those and if you don’t a great team is going to charge you and that’s what happened.

The Canes again played without injured defender Tony DeAngelo, who has been training and is expected to return in upcoming games — possibly Friday against Washington at the PNC Arena. Defenseman Brendan Smith was back in the lineup after missing 10 games when he fractured his skull blocking a shot Feb. 20 in Pittsburgh.

Canes striker Jordan Martinook left the game in pain Thursday after an injury. Brind’Amour didn’t get an update after the game but said: “It didn’t look good.

Kallgren, 25, spent last season in the Swedish Hockey League and was with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL this season before being called up by the Leafs with injured Jack Campbell and struggling Petr Mrazek.

The Canes last played on Sunday, losing in Pittsburgh. Another scheduling oddity has had a three-day gap between games — the Canes host the Capitals on Friday and the New York Rangers on Sunday.

This story was originally published March 17, 2022 9:42 p.m.

In more than 30 years at the N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the beats for NC State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina, and is now in his 11th season on the beat for the Carolina Hurricanes. Alexander, who has won numerous state and national writing awards, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was part of The N&O’s coverage of the Cup run. Stanley 2006 Canes.

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