The Toronto Maple Leafs were pretty good for four weeks without captain Mats Sundin in the lineup. Watch out now.
"He is one of the better players in the game," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said of the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Sundin, who returned to the lineup after being sidelined by a fractured ankle to get a goal and an assist. "He is a force."
Quinn said a key to the win was getting the forechecking Hurricanes on their heels early.
"That's hard, when you're ready to play," Quinn said. "I think we had an advantage because it was only their second game in here and they wanted to come out and play good, and all of a sudden they give up two bad goals."
"We can't afford to get into a situation where we're pressing to win because we feel a responsibility to put people in the seats," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We need to just concentrate on our own job."
Curtis Joseph tied Philadelphia's John Vanbiesbrouck for the NHL lead with his third shutout, the 25th of his career. Joseph was sharp all night in stopping 24 shots.
"I felt pretty good. I thought the whole team was pretty sharp," Joseph said. "Our defense is playing exceptional. We're on kind of a roll here."
Carolina, which displayed solid hockey after playing 10 of its first 11 games on the rad, picked a bad time to have a poor defensive effort against one of the NHL's top offenses.
Johnson, standing behind the goal to the left of the net, bounced the puck off the back of Fichaud's shoulder for his sixth goal of the season.
"I didn't learn that from anybody," Johnson said of his bank shot. "It was a centering pass gone awry. It was just a lucky bounce."
Johnson then pounced on a rebound seconds later as the Hurricanes fell behind 2-0. Dmitri Khristich assisted on both of Johnson's goals.
Sundin scored midway through the second period on a perfect give-and-go with Jonas Hoglund.
Hoglund put the game away with three seconds left in the period on a great individual effort while the Maple Leafs were shorthanded. He raced to the puck with Glen Wesley in the Carolina zone, outmuscled the defenseman along the boards and beat Fichaud high with Wesley draped all over him.
Hoglund, signed as an unrestricted free agent in July, and Tomas Kaberle added goals over the final 8:17 of the third. Hoglund's two goals gave him eight for the season, his total in 74 games with Montreal last season.
"I don't think you'll find a whole lot of guys in the locker room saying, `Hey, I was great, the rest of the team wasn't there,"' Maurice said. "We preach a team concept and that was a team concept all right."
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