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Connor Brown and Auston Matthews power Maple Leafs past Hurricanes

Carolina Hurricanes' Lee Stempniak is blocked by Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Curtis McElhinney on Feb. 19, 2017.

Gerry Broome/AP

Connor Brown scored twice, Auston Matthews had a highlight-reel goal on a backhander as he was twirling down to the ice, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 on Sunday night.

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 Jan. 2014.

Toronto snapped a two-game skid and jumped into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with the win.

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Matthews' 28th goal came as he was being hooked on a charge to the net in the second period. But he manoeuvred his stick across his body in midair as he was falling and poked in the puck with his backhand just before hitting the ice.

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).

Brown opened the scoring 1:07 into the second period when he redirected a bouncing pass from van Riemsdyk over 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 Phil Di Giueseppe 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.

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.

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