The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to their best start in 20 years and lead the Eastern Conference in points and goals. Coach Randy Carlyle, though, isn't very happy with his team's play.
The Maple Leafs look for a fourth straight victory Thursday night when they host a Carolina Hurricanes squad attempting to snap a three-game losing streak.
Toronto's 6-1-0 start is its best since the 1993-94 team opened with 10 consecutive victories, and it has scored 27 goals while allowing 16. However, the Maple Leafs have been outshot in five of their seven games - including the last four - and were fortunate to come away with a win over Minnesota on Tuesday.
The Wild held a 37-14 advantage in shots, but some timely goals and James Reimer's solid performance in net led to a 4-1 victory for Toronto.
"Some nights we're going to get our butt kicked playing like this," Carlyle said.
The Maple Leafs scored on their first shot, a tap-in from the crease by Tyler Bozak on the power play 4:24 into the game, and Trevor Smith scored his first goal of the season at 13:51 on the team's third shot.
Mason Raymond scored another power-play goal in the second period and added an empty-netter, while Cody Franson and rookie defenseman Morgan Rielly had two assists each.
"By no means was that our identity, what we want to play like out there," Raymond said. "We weren't real good in a lot of areas, but we also found a way to win. As we keep saying, we aren't going to take away from our wins, but there's definitely lots of room for improvement."
Carlyle is grateful the wins keep coming, but he's concerned with his team's recent performances.
"Again, we're in a situation that it's hard to be critical when you're getting points," he said. "We're not going to continue to accept what's happening, but we have to find a way to mold this from a different angle that our level of play has to increase."
Carolina (2-2-3) raised its level of play late in Tuesday's matchup with defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, getting goals from Alexander Semin and Ron Hainsey in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and send the game into overtime. The Hurricanes, though, lost 3-2 in a shootout to finish 0-1-2 on a three-game homestand.
Despite the defeat, coach Kirk Muller was pleased his team didn't give up and managed to put at least 34 shots on goal for the fifth time this season.
"I really like the way our leaders took charge tonight and kept everyone composed, and we went out and had a good second and third period, climbed back into it and tied the game," Muller said. "... This was a heck of a hockey game. The chances were there."
Carolina had its four-game winning streak in this series end with a 6-3 loss at Toronto on March 28. The Hurricanes had earned at least one point in the previous six matchups, going 5-0-1.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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