RALEIGH, N.C. -- As Maple Leafs observers got to see up close, Paul Maurice is as good as anyone at keeping a poker face.
That said, he wasn't about to deny that last night's game had an added edge to it because his former team was the guest of dishonour at the RBC Center.
With the Carolina Hurricanes in the thick of the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, Maurice was trying to keep that pursuit as his primarily focus yesterday.
But faced with the constant badgering about playing his old squad for the first time since he was fired by Toronto last summer and hired by Carolina in December, Maurice got a little testy.
For the most part, the man who coached the Leafs the previous two seasons was measured with the Canadian media this week, but he let his guard down with a Carolina reporter.
"The politically correct thing that most coaches say is: 'It's like any other game.' But it's not for me," Maurice told a local radio station. "It's absolutely personal. You want to see that team lose every game for the next 10 years. That's how I feel to be honest."
When asked about the comments yesterday, Maurice tried to play them down suggesting they were mostly in jest.
"Breathe, all of you," Maurice told a group of Toronto media anxious to get him to attach meaning to the game. "Just breathe. What do you expect me to say? That I want to lose?
"I remember a line from (Carolina president and general manager) Jim Rutherford about four or five years ago. Nobody ever comes to the games, leans over and says: 'Look, he's really coaching tonight.'
"It would be a lie to say that I don't want to win it more. It's more than two points for the coach, but at the end of the day, nobody else cares."
Coming off three consecutive road losses before last night's game, the 'Canes were tied with Buffalo for seventh spot in the East (47 points).
But with wins against the Leafs in their previous two meetings this season, Maurice was hoping to right the ship last night. It didn't happen, as the Leafs won 6-4, sending the Hurricanes to their fourth loss in a row.
"We were a real good team until about a week ago," Maurice said in reference to the road struggles that have brought Carolina back to the pack.
"We just have to be consistent," Hurricanes veteran Rod Brind'Amour said. "If you can do that, you will fare well. That's the secret, no matter if you are in first place or last place. Everything gets so evenly matched up at this time of year and the games become that much tougher."
THAT'S A WRAP
Despite a season-low 17 shots against Atlanta on Tuesday night, the Leafs came out with little jump last night, getting outshot 12-4 in the first.
Defenceman Anton Stralman was promoted from the Marlies to help move the puck but he was a defensive liability on the goal that tied the game at 4-4 in the third period.
"Nothing that you can print."
-- Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice when asked what was said between the second and third periods, with his team trailing 3-1.
Tonight, 7:30 p.m at Atlanta Thrashers; Sportsnet, AM 640.