The Hurricanes Steal One in the Shootout in Toronto After a Late Surge and an OT Kill

Aho scores twice in the final 1:32 of regulation to force overtime before Guentzel reverses the Canes' fortunes in the shootout in a 5-4 win.

Mar 16, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis (24) goes after rebound
Mar 16, 2024; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis (24) goes after rebound / John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Hurricanes began a three-game road trip on Saturday night by battling Auston Matthews and the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a dominant 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena on Thursday, the Canes traveled to Canada for the first half of a Canadian back-to-back. Carolina held off the Maple Leafs in Toronto to close out 2023, winning 3-2 behind three points from Sebastian Aho.

Before the game, it was announced that Teuvo Teravainen hadn't made the trip to Toronto, meaning Brendan Lemieux would get back into the lineup in his spot. Pyotr Kochetkov was in the net after an incredible performance in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night. Toronto would also be without a big playmaker, as Mitch Marner missed another game with a high-ankle sprain. Fellow Russian Ilya Samsonov would be opposite Kochetkov for the Maple Leafs.

The first period was all about the penalty kill for both teams, especially in the final ten minutes. The Hurricanes held a slight edge early before Jesper Fast took an offensive zone penalty. Both teams would get two chances on the power play in the period, with no goals scored by either side. Both goalies faced nine shots, and both goalies made nine stops as the two sides battled to a scoreless draw after 20 minutes.

The game opened up in the second period in Toronto's favor, as they made the Hurricanes pay for sloppy puck management. A bad pass from Jesper Fast off Jesperi Kotkaniemi's skate allowed TJ Brodie to spring John Tavares for a breakaway, which he finished over the blocker of Pyotr Kochetkov to break the ice. Less than two minutes later, William Nylander undressed Kochetkov on a breakaway to double Toronto's lead. Toronto would kill off a penalty and use that momentum to get a third goal as Tavares set up Nicolas Robertson to make it feel like the rout was on for the Leafs.

With a three-goal deficit to overcome, Rod Brind'Amour pulled out the blender for his lines, and it worked almost immediately. Jesper Fast reunited with his old linemates, helping to create a goal. He got the puck back to Brent Burns, who was playing in his 1,400 NHL game. Burns' shot from the point was redirected by Jordan Martinook and was stopped, but Martinook pounced on the rebound to get the Canes on the board finally.

With a late power play, the Canes would pull within one. Jake Guentzel threw one at the net with time winding down and Seth Jarvis was there to knock home another rebound, scoring with less than three seconds left to get back within a goal. What felt like a huge hill to climb looked a lot more manageable going into the third period.

After building all of that momentum late in the second period, Toronto snatched it right back, taking advantage of yet another misplay from the Hurricanes. Morgan Rielly found David Kampf for a breakaway, and Kampf faked out Pyotr Kochetkov, snapping one through his pads to restore Toronto's two-goal advantage. To make matters worse, Jordan Martinook took a penalty shortly after, but it would be killed.

The Hurricanes opted to lift Pyotr Kochetkov early, and Dmitry Orlov was able to draw a penalty, setting up a 6-on-4 advantage with 2:54 left. Orlov would factor in on the goal, as Jake Guentzel deflected his pass to Sebastian Aho, who buried it at the backdoor to get the Canes within a goal with 1:32 remaining. Kochetkov would be back on the bench shortly after as the Canes looked for the equalizer. With 5.8 seconds left, they would get it. Brent Burns' shot was redirected into the net by Aho to tie the game and send it to overtime.

The chances were abundant for both teams in overtime, but Toronto would earn a power play after Jake Guentzel was called for slashing. The kill came up big, with the Leafs coming dangerously close to winning it when John Tavares' shot was denied by Pyotr Kochetkov's right toe. Nothing would be settled in overtime, leading to a shootout. After both team's first two shooters failed, Kochetkov went into his bag of tricks, pulling out the flying poke check against Max Domi to thwart his opportunity. Guentzel stepped up to earn his redemption and slid a beautiful shot through Ilya Samsonov to complete the comeback as the Canes earned two massive points.

It just goes to show that you can never count the Hurricanes out of any game. There are plenty of prime examples of that, but this was a little special. If Thursday's game was Evgeny Kuznetsov's big moment, this was Jake Guentzel's. He picked up two assists, including one during the third-period comeback bid. Then, he took a penalty in overtime that his teammates bailed him out on before finishing the game in the shootout. The only way that could've been any better was if it was in Raleigh.

While the comeback was nice, the Hurricanes shot themselves in the foot way too many times. This was an uncharacteristically sloppy game in the neutral zone by a team that has consistently been solid in that area recently. Against lesser teams in the league, that might fly, but Toronto is a wagon offensively. Even without a big player like Mitch Marner, they have plenty of guys who can hurt you, and they did so in this one. By sheer intestinal fortitude, it didn't bury them.

The Hurricanes will complete their back-to-back on Sunday in Canada's capital against the Ottawa Senators. Ottawa was also in action on Saturday, meaning they'll be in the same boat as the Canes. The final stop of the short trip will be on Tuesday on Long Island for the final meeting of the season with the New York Islanders.