April 16th, 2024

Jake Guentzel scores shootout winner, Hurricanes top Maple Leafs 5-4

By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on March 16, 2024.

Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) scores on Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) during second period NHL hockey in Toronto, Saturday, March 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – Jake Guentzel wasn’t in an enviable position – especially when still trying to make a good impression with his new teammates.

Having already helped Carolina battle back from 3-0 and 4-2 deficits to force overtime Saturday, the winger found himself seated in the penalty box.

“You don’t feel good,” he said of the slashing call. “You never want to put the team in that spot.”

Guentzel had two nervous minutes to wait. Then he got his chance.

The Hurricanes killed off the infraction before Guentzel scored the only goal of the shootout in a 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Penalty kill did an unbelievable job,” said the 29-year-old, who also had two assists. “A lot of relief. To be able to come out in the shootout and get one, that’s the cherry on top.”

Acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins before last week’s NHL trade deadline, Guentzel saw an impressive level of fight from a group that made it all the way to last season’s Eastern Conference final.

“Resilient,” said the two-time Stanley Cup winner. “We were gonna keep pushing.”

Sebastian Aho, with two late goals and an assist, Jordan Martinook and Seth Jarvis scored in regulation for Carolina (41-20-6). Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 36 shots.

Hurricanes defenceman Brent Burns, who also chipped in two assists, skated in the 1,400th regular-season game of his career. The 39-year-old is just the 42nd player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

John Tavares, with a goal and an assist, William Nylander, Nick Robertson and David Kampf replied for Toronto (38-19-9). Ilya Samsonov made 36 saves. Morgan Rielly had two assists.

“We got good efforts,” said Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, who was without injured forwards Mitch Marner and Calle Jarnkrok. “The results sucks, but I thought we stood in there.”

With the Hurricanes down two late in the third period, Aho scored a power-play goal, his 26th of the season, with Kochetkov on the bench for an extra attacker with 92 seconds left in regulation.

Aho then tied it 4-4 with 5.8 seconds remaining and the teams playing 6-on-5 to force OT.

Toronto and Carolina traded chances in the 3-on-3 extra period, including that Leafs man advantage, before Guentzel won it in the third round of the shootout with a shot through Samsonov’s pads.

“Great response,” Aho said. “You can lean on these moments.”

The Hurricanes, who were minus top-line winger Teuvo Teravainen (upper-body injury) Saturday, made some big moves ahead of last week’s deadline when they added both Guentzel and Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was picked up from the Washington Capitals.

“Great personalities,” Aho said. “We all know how great of a player Guentz is. He’s done it for many years.”

Added head coach Rod Brind’Amour: “It’s going to take some time for these guys to just feel comfortable.”

Sporting their white and green St. Patrick’s jerseys, the Leafs opened the scoring at 4:47 of the second when Tavares scored his 21st on a breakaway.

Nylander doubled the lead at 6:27 when he roofed his 36th on another break before Robertson – in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 29 – buried his ninth upstairs for a 3-0 lead at 12:03.

Martinook got the visitors on the board with his 12th at 13:27. Jarvis added another on a power play with 2.7 seconds left on the clock when he scored his 22nd for a 3-2 deficit through 40 minutes.

Toronto defenceman Joel Edmundson cleared a puck out of his crease and Carolina defenceman Jalen Chatfield hit the post early in the third before Kampf made it 4-2 on another breakaway when he scored his sixth at 2:55.

But the Hurricanes punched back. And Guentzel eventually sealed it.

“We gave them four goals,” Brind’Amour said. “Giving up breakaways like that “¦ that was not typical of the way we (do) it, but I give the guys a lot of credit.

“Dug in and had a good finish.”

MARNER ON THE MEND

Marner (high ankle sprain) missed a third straight game, but has resumed skating. Jarnkrok (hand) got hurt in Thursday’s 6-2 victory in Philadelphia and is considered week-to-week.

FLAPPING WINGS

Acquired from Washington after spending a chunk of the season in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program before passing through waivers, Kuznetsov broke out his familiar celebration – known as the “The Bird” – after scoring his first Carolina goal Thursday.

Brind’Amour joked in the locker room post-game he wasn’t a fan of the 31-year-old’s arm flapping until this week.

“I’m pretty sure it bothers a lot of people,” Kuznetsov said with a laugh Saturday. “I don’t try to make people angry “¦ it’s just for kids and people that have been asking me.”

UP NEXT

Carolina: Visits the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

Toronto: Heads back to Philadelphia on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2024.

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