McElhinney brilliant in Leafs bounce-back win

Leafs goaltender Curtis McElhinney was sensational in a 37-save performance, leading his team to a 4-0 victory in Carolina on Sunday night. The victory was a huge morale boost, coming one night after Toronto’s home regulation to Ottawa.

Toronto had entered the game with a subpar record of 4-8-1 in the second half of back-to-back games, but – following a scoreless first period – dominated the evening.

Connor Brown opened the scoring on a give-and-go play, driving the net after receiving a saucer pass from James van Riemsdyk and depositing the puck past Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward. The goal was a foreshadowing of things to come.

Later in the frame, Auston Matthews scored arguably his most brilliant goal of his season, falling as he was tripped by his numerical counterpart, defenceman Phillip Di Giuseppe, and still batting the puck out of midair for the tally. It was Matthews’s 28th goal of the season, a play that is certain to be prominent on highlight reels for the next several days.

Jake Gardiner extended Toronto’s lead in the third period on a seeing-eye shot from the blueline that Ward misread.

To round out the scoring, Brown notched his second marker of the game on a play with van Riemsdyk that was practically identical to his earlier goal.

“He’s a really good passer off the wing so I just tried to build my speed and get to the middle as quick as possible and he put two on my tape,” Brown said to reporters after the game.

McElhinney posted his first shutout since January 2, 2014, earned while playing with Columbus.

The Leafs return home for three straight games beginning Tuesday versus Winnipeg.

Forward lines:
van Riemsdyk-Bozak-Brown
Komarov-Kadri- Leivo
Hyman-Matthews- Nylander
Martin- Smith-Soshnikov

Defence:
Zaitsev-Rielly
Hunwick-Polak
Carrick-Gardiner

Goaltenders:
McElhinney
Andersen