Ward stopped 32 shots for his 21st shutout and the Carolina Hurricanes eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs from playoff contention with a 3-0 win Tuesday night.
“We got off to a good start,” Ward said. “We were ready and we carried the majority of the play in the first period. It was a solid 60-minute effort by our team.”
The Maple Leafs’ record fell to 33-35-9 after being shut out for the seventh time this season. Four of those have come in the past 10 games.
“The thing is we haven’t done anything good really,” said forward Phil Kessel. “It’s frustrating for all of us. We’re all disappointed obviously. We wish we could win games.
“I don’t really know what to think.”
Carolina took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Leafs starter Jonas Gustavsson was deep in his net on both shots, allowing Jokinen to beat him with a backhander at 13:05 and Brent to roof a shot at 18:19.
The second goal brought on boos that got louder when Harrison floated a wrist shot past Gustavsson 37 seconds into the second period.
“Whatever they shot at the net seemed to find a way to go through our goaltender,” Carlyle said. “It sucked a lot of life out of us.”
Hours after new coach Randy Carlyle called the Leafs’ play at Air Canada Centre “unacceptable,” they fell behind 3-0 early in the second period and lost their 10th straight game in front of disgruntled home fans.
“We can’t ask for anyone else to come in and be Jesus here,” defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said. “It’s up to us. I don’t think we need a savior, we can do it on our own. It’s just a matter of turning it around and getting our minds into it and I think if everyone believes it we can do it.”
Carlyle responded to the third goal by sending in goalie Jussi Rynnas for his NHL debut. The 24-year-old Finn was called up earlier in the day after expected starter James Reimer was ruled out with an upper-body injury.
The Leafs outshot the Hurricanes 12-7 in the second period but the damage was already done and Ward wasn’t going to be beaten.
After its last home victory on Feb. 6, the Maple Leafs were sixth in the conference. They’ve gone 5-16-3 since, costing former coach Ron Wilson his job.
Carlyle delivered strong words about his team’s play on home ice prior to the game.
“We have to demonstrate some more will, pride, passion, whatever—because this has gone on long enough,” he said after the morning skate. “That was our message after practice (Monday): That it’s unacceptable to have the home record that we have right now.”
Starting Thursday night against Philadelphia, the Leafs have three more chances to try for another victory at home this season. Otherwise, they’ll have gone more than eight weeks in their own building without one to close the year.
NOTES: Toronto fell to 4-7-2 under Carlyle … Carolina won three of four games against the Leafs this season … Toronto forward Mike Brown returned to the Leafs lineup after missing nine games with a thigh contusion … Alternate captains Mike Komisarek and Colby Armstrong were scratched … Announced attendance was 19,348.
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