SUNRISE, FL - MARCH 13: Krys Barch #21 of the Florida Panthers and Jay Rosehill #38 of the Toronto Maple Leafs fight during the first period on March 13, 2012 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
There's no opponent in the NHL that brings out the best in the Florida Panthers more than the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Panthers once again welcomed the Leafs into the warm confines of the BankAtlantic Center and sent them packing with a strong 5-2 win. Despite getting outplayed for stretches of this game, Florida proved they wanted it more and capitalized on several key mistakes by Toronto. Jose Theodore continued his fantastic play in net for the Panthers and received his fair share of action as the Leafs registered 28 shots and numerous scoring chances. Florida really stepped up the physical play as well, something that long-time fans of the team still aren't quite used to. Sean Bergenheim scored twice to surpass his career high for goals in a season, and Jason Garrison tied a franchise record for most goals in a season by a defenseman, pulling even with current Panthers assistant coach Gord Murphy and Flames blueliner Jay Bouwmeester. All in all, a very good night for the Panthers.
- Jason Garrison (15) 14:43, assisted by Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky
- Tyler Bozak (15) 19:02, assisted by Clarke MacArthur and Phil Kessel
- Theodore was big when he needed to be and continues to be scorching hot for the Cats. He's clearly going to be ridden into the postseason, if that is indeed where Florida is heading. If Theo keeps playing as well as he has been, they will definitely end up there.
- Krys Barch fought Jay Rosehill early and popped him a few times to win the bout. He's doing his job, though you'd like to see him get a little more hits in during his forechecking action. Later in the third period, the Leafs started taking some dangerous liberties on the Cats and Ellerby was crushed into the glass from behind by Carter Ashton. In came Shawn Matthias to fight Ashton, and didn't even allow Ashton to land a punch while Matty rained fury down upon him. It's great to see the team's big boys sticking up for everyone and that's the type of long term chemistry you want to see this team developing.
- Ed Jovanovski has really picked up his play as of late. It seems like he's starting to realize his leadership role with the team not only off the ice but on it as well. His physical play has picked up and Dineen is using him in all situations: PP, PK and key even strength situations. Hopefully he can stay fresh and energized, because when he is playing well the Panther blueline gets so much deeper.
- I can see why Toronto fans get infuriated with their team at times. It's the same reason we Florida fans do: the team just stops remembering how to play simple, determined hockey. The Leafs were skating around relatively aimlessly at times during the first, getting caught chasing the puck and leaving guys wide open for no good reason. Their problems seem to lie on the defensive side of things mostly as they had some periods of solid puck possession in the offensive zone. I'm sure newly-appointed head coach Randy Carlyle will shore up the gaps soon... especially lazy passes. Looking at you, Carl.
- The Panthers really owned the opening eight minutes of the first, but after that Toronto picked up the lunch pails and went to work. To their credit, Florida did a great job keeping them outside during their offensive time, but the Leafs did a great job pressuring Florida on the forecheck and keeping the Cats on their heels. The Leafs kept the pressure up in the second period, but the third was mostly owned by the Cats.
- Hey Mike Milbury, remember when you called Bergenheim, "a one-hit wonder?" Wrong again. Stay classy, Mikey.
- Florida's defense was very active offensively during this tilt, with Garrison scoring a goal and an assist, Ellerby assisting, Jovo assisting and the rest of the crew pinching at smart times and not overextending themselves. When they're all on as a unit and executing the gameplan well in regards to supporting the offense, they are as good as any blueline corps in the league. And all this without Dmitry Kulikov, who is due back within the next two weeks.
- Kopecky's goal was the result of planting one of the biggest, scrappiest bodies on the Cats roster in front of the net during the powerplay to cause havoc in front of the opposition's goalie. I've said it in previous recaps: Kopecky is well suited for this role and needs to do it more during even strength shifts as well. He was pretty solid in this game and it was good to see him register some points and show up on the scoresheet.
- Jerred Smithson was quiet most of the game, but that's just the kind of game he wants to have. He was above average in the circle, but played great defensive hockey and was solid in the corners and along the walls. He's not going to post numbers for the Panthers that exceeded what he accomplished in Nashville, but they don't need him to. As long as he's playing a solid puck possession style, he's going to continue to fit right in.
- Poor James Reimer. Poor, poor James Reimer.