RALEIGH, N.C. â€” Carolina’s Phil Di Giuseppe did everything he could to stop Auston Matthews from getting to the net, going so far as to hook the young Toronto rookie down to the ice.
It didn’t matter.
Matthews still found a way to put the puck in the back of the net.
Matthews had a highlight-reel goal on a backhander as he was twirling down to the ice, Connor Brown scored twice, and the Maple Leafs beat the Hurricanes 4-0 on Sunday night.
“When you’re getting hooked like that, to No. 1, keep your balance and, (No.) 2, find the puck and be able to push it,” Brown said of Matthews, “he’s an elite goal scorer for a reason.”
Jake Gardiner added a goal and two assists, James van Riemsdyk had two assists and Curtis McElhinney made 37 saves for the Maple Leafs to earn his first shutout since January 2014.
Toronto snapped a two-game skid and jumped into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the win.
Brown opened the scoring 1:07 into the second period when he redirected a bouncing pass from van Riemsdyk over Carolina goalie Cam Ward’s shoulder into the upper corner of the net, the first of two times they would connect in that fashion.
Matthews doubled Toronto’s lead later in the period in jaw-dropping fashion. The 19-year-old wunderkind carried the puck in from the left side of the blue line toward the crease when Di Giuseppe hooked him, even losing his stick in the process. As Matthews’ body turned away from the net as he began to spiral down, he flung his stick toward the net in midair and slid the loose puck between Ward’s pads just before he hit the ice.
“I had a good amount of speed going into it to carry me to the net and then just tried to sneak it in there,” Matthews said. “Pretty lucky play, I guess.”
His teammates attributed it to something other than luck.
“Just the strength, while he was falling, to score that goal, that was pretty impressive,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner and Brown finished the scoring with goals 1:59 apart in the third period.
McElhinney earned his first shutout with the Maple Leafs, and the fifth of his career. He improved to 3-3 with Toronto since being claimed off waivers from Columbus last month.
“Right now, I feel pretty good in net and for the most part we’re getting results,” McElhinney said. “That’s the most important thing.”
Cam Ward made 20 saves for Carolina before being pulled with 10:58 remaining in the third period.
Eddie Lack made seven saves in relief for the Hurricanes, who are winless in their last four games (0-3-1).
“We had no fire tonight,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “None.”
NOTES: Mitch Marner missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury for Toronto. He entered the day tied for the team lead with 48 points. … Toronto’s Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov each had an assist to extend their point streaks to four games. … The Hurricanes recalled Di Giuseppe from Charlotte of the AHL earlier in the day. … Jeff Skinner played his 472nd game for Carolina, tying him with Ron Francis for 10th all-time in games played for the franchise since it relocated in 1997. … The Hurricanes lost for the first time in seven games wearing their black alternate jerseys this season.
Maple Leafs: Host Winnipeg on Tuesday.
Hurricanes: Host Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Kyle Glaser, The Associated Press