Steve Thomas wishes the Toronto Maple Leafs could play every game like this one.
Thomas and Fredrik Modin scored two goals each to lead the Leafs to a 7-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night.
Steve Sullivan added three assists and Thomas and Mats Sundin had two apiece for Toronto, the NHL's highest scoring team. The Leafs scored seven goals in a game for the fifth time this season and beat the Hurricanes for the first time in four meetings this season.
"This is pretty close to as good as we can play," said Thomas. "We still had a few defensive gaffes, but for the most part, we played very well."
The Maple Leafs came into the game with 222 goals but 207 goals allowed, the sixth-highest total in the league. But Toronto coach Pat Quinn was happy with Toronto's play at both ends of the ice Friday night for a change.
"This is the way we need to play," said Quinn. "We have the capability at the offensive end but we've needed to improve at the other end. Tonight, we were also fairly responsible at the defensive end."
"This was our best outing in a while."
The Maple Leafs, who were coming off an 8-5 loss to San Jose on Wednesday, put the Hurricanes down 3-0 in the first 8:10 of Friday night's game.
Carolina coach Paul Maurice pulled goaltender Arturs Irbe after Toronto scored on its first three shots in a span of 1:39.
Sundin intercepted a clearing attempt by Irbe behind the goal and found Thomas, who ripped a shot into the net at 6:31 of the first before Irbe could get back.
"He (Irbe) doesn't have a reputation to be one of the best puck-handlers," said Sundin. "It was kind of a weak goal."
Eight seconds later, Sergei Berezin blasted a shot under Irbe from the left circle to put Toronto up 2-0.
Sullivan set up Toronto's third goal, stealing the puck from Dave Karpa deep in the Hurricanes' zone ad finding Derek King, who stuffed a shot under Irbe with 11:50 left in the period.
Maurice replaced Irbe with Trevor Kidd after King's goal and the Hurricanes trimmed the lead to 3-1 just 17 seconds later. Keith Primeau was trailing a rush by Martin Gelinas when he poked a shot past Toronto goaltender Curtis Joseph.
Kidd made four saves the rest of the period but the Maple Leafs scored two goals early in the second.
Thomas scored his second goal of the game 14 seconds into a penalty to Steve Halko, lifting a shot over Kidd's shoulder with 17:38 left in the period. Modin beat Kidd four minutes later while diving forward to reach a pass from Sundin out of the corner.
Tie Domi and Modin added goals in the final six minutes of the period.
The Hurricanes had not given up seven goals in a game since a 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh in November 1996.
"We got off to a 3-0 deficit and things went downhill from there," said Maurice. "I don't think I need a long-winded explanation of what happened. They put pucks in the net, plenty of them, quite often."
"We were bad. We didn't win."
Paul Ranheim scored with 10.3 seconds left in the game for Carolina.
Joseph made 23 saves for the Maple Leafs, who won for just the second time in six games. The Hurricanes lost for the fourth time in their last five.
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