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Staal nets OT winner as Hurricanes rally past Leafs

The Canadian Press

12/29/2011 11:01:48 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. - Eric Staal scored a power-play goal 3:09 into overtime to lift the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-3 comeback win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Staal had two goals and an assist, and Zac Dalpe and Brandon Sutter also scored for the Hurricanes. Cam Ward made 21 saves for Carolina, which rallied from a two-goal deficit.

It was the Hurricanes' third straight home win, their longest streak there since March.

Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri had Toronto's goals.

Two days after allowing three goals on eight shots in a 5-3 loss to Florida, James Reimer made 30 saves for the Maple Leafs. Reimer entered with a 3-0 record against Carolina, and had allowed only two goals to the Hurricanes in his career.

Staal scored the winning goal while Toronto's Tim Connolly was in the penalty box following a tripping penalty. Staal fired a one-timer from the right circle past Reimer's shoulder to end it. That put the finishing touch on one of the Hurricanes' most exciting victories of the season.

With the score tied at one midway through the third period, Darryl Boyce nudged the puck at Ward's left pad after taking a pass on the rush. Carolina's Alexei Ponikarovsky didn't wrap up Kulemin in front, allowing the Maple Leafs forward to tap in the rebound for his fourth goal.

Lupul made it 3-1 less than three minutes later when he deflected a shot from the point past Ward at the end of a Maple Leafs power play.

The Hurricanes responded quickly.

Staal beat Reimer between the pads during a breakaway 40 seconds after Lupul's goal, and Dalpe tied it when he finished off a scramble in front. That goal came a little more than two minutes after Staal brought Carolina within one.

Sutter opened the scoring in the first period when he forced a turnover near the blue-line. He took a pass from Drayson Bowman and skated into the slot before snapping a wrist shot above Reimer's glove.

The Maple Leafs answered early in the second when Kadri successfully wrapped the puck around the left post and past Ward.

NOTES: It was the second NHL assist for Bowman. . After being short handed only five times in five home games, Carolina killed all seven Toronto power plays. . The Maple Leafs and Hurricanes split their two previous meetings this season.