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The Globe and Mail

Tired Leafs lose to well-rested Hurricanes

After being snow bound in New Jersey for the better part of two days, the Toronto Maple Leafs finally dragged their weary bones back home just in time to play the Carolina Hurricanes Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

And while the will was there, the befuddled Maple Leafs were unable to weather another storm, their lack of scoring touch once again proving their undoing in a 4-3 setback to the Hurricanes.

A goal by Patrick Dwyer, who deflected a slapshot from the point by Tim Gleason past helpless Toronto goaltender Jonas Gustavsson with just over five minutes left to play proved to be the winning marker.

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"Lord knows we've had enough adversity in the last 48 hours or so," offered Toronto coach Ron Wilson following the setback, the fourth in the last five games for the Leafs. "But our team I thought played very well."

Wilson's assessment was dead on especially when you consider the events that unfolded for the Leafs over the last couple of days which saw the National Hockey League club stranded in New Jersey following Sunday's 4-1 win against the Devils.

A huge blizzard that struck areas of the Eastern seaboard trapped the Leafs in their bus for almost five hours on the New Jersey Turnpike after the contest as they tried to push through to their hotel.

On Monday, the Leafs spent four hours in their plane at the Newark airport before their flight was finally cancelled, sending the team back to the hotel for another New Jersey night.

Finally, come Tuesday morning, the skies cleared enough to allow the Leafs to jet home in the morning, allowing them scant time to prepare against a well-rested Carolina outfit that arrived in town a day earlier, eager to end a three-game losing skid.

For the Leafs, that is not exactly a recipe for success for a team that in the best of times struggles for its victories and entered the game a whopping 12 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Asked if the team had enough pep to overcome the Hurricanes given what the Leafs had just endured, Mikhail Grabovski just scoffed.

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"I'm 26 years old," he said. "I had lots of energy."

After a rocky start, in which the Leafs trailed 3-2 after the first period, Toronto carried the play to the Hurricanes the rest of the way.

Only the play of goaltender Cam Ward kept his team in, especially in the second period where the likes of Grabovski and Phil Kessel were foisted on numerous excellent scoring chances.

The Leafs outshot Carolina 14-7 in the middle frame and 37-27 overall

"We had loyd of scoring chances there, especially in the second period," Gustavsson said. "We could easily have scored a couple of more goals there. But Ward played good in their net."

Kessel scored twice for the Leafs with Grabovski adding the other marker.

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Eric Staal also scored twice for Carolina with Jeff Skinner adding a single before Dwyer potted the winner in the third.

Wilson said he did not feel the events that led up to the game affected his team's performance one bit.

"None," he said emphatically. "We played well. We had a great second period where we absolutely dominated. We out-chanced them 13-1.

"We had some bumps on the road in the first period but we settled down and I thought we played an excellent game."

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