McElhinney, Hurricanes knock off Leafs 5-2

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The Toronto media swarmed about Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney after the morning skate Wednesday, which was understandable.

The Canes were hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs and the best storyline was McElhinney, who was facing the team that put him on waivers in early October.

“It should be a fun challenge,” McElhinney said. “They have so many weapons and it certainly will be a challenge. The biggest thing for us is to get out to a good start again.”

The Canes got that good start by scoring the first two goals of the game as defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk and team captain Justin Williams scored in the first period. Micheal Ferland added a power-play goal in the third period, and Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov had late empty-netters in a 5-2 victory at PNC Arena.

NcElhinney finished with 30 saves for his fifth win of the season for the Canes (10-8-3), who celebrated after the game by spreading to all corners of the rink ot hop into the glass.

John Tavares scored in the first for the Leafs, picking off a pass and striking on a breakaway. Ferland’s goal pushed the Canes ahead 3-1 but Kasperi Kapanen pulled the Leafs within 3-2 with a snipe.

The Canes’ start Wednesday wasn’t like Sunday and the startling start against the New Jersey Devils — Williams and Ferland scoring in the first 30 seconds of the game. But it again was rapid-fire goals as van Riemsdyk and Williams scored in a 22-second span of the first.

The Leafs again were playing without Auston Matthews, who is closed to returning from a shoulder injury that has kept him out 14 games. But Tavares continued to do what he does best, push the pace offensively, and scored for the Leafs in the first.

Tavares picked off a Williams pass in the neutral zone and was off on a breakaway, beating McElhinney to the blocker side. It was Tavares’ 14th of the season and 11th on the road.

The Canes had 29 shots in the opening period, a team record for one period since the franchise relocation in 1997. If that was eye-opening, the Canes then had two shots on goal in the second period, the first with 1:54 left by Justin Faulk.

Svechnikov had five of the shots in the first and it was his line, with center Lucas Wallmark and winger Jordan Martinook, that produced the first goal. With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen being crowded in the crease, van Riemsdyk pinched in to put a backhander into the net.

Williams’ goal came after a set play off a faceoff. Jordan Staal won the draw to defenseman Calvin de Haan, who found Williams open in front for a quick redirection.

Ferland’s power-play score came after Aho broke a stick trying to get off a shot. Teuvo Teravainen set up Ferland in the right circle for the shot.

McElhinney was Andersen’s backup in Toronto, playing 32 games the past two seasons and putting up some good numbers. But when the decision was made by the Leafs to have Garret Sparks back up Andersen this season, McElhinney was placed on waivers Oct. 1 and claimed by the Canes.

“There was some disappointment in being pushed out the door,” McElhinney said. “ Some pickup by the Canes.

With Scott Darling injured as the season began, McElhinney won his first three starts. But Wednesday’s game was different.

This was the Leafs. The Leafs came into PNC Arena having won four straight and seven of eight.

Toronto, the Eastern Conference leader, also had a 9-1-0 road record. The Canes were a more modest 3-1-1 in their last five and 2-1-1 on their homestand that ends Friday against the Florida Panthers.