The Florida Panthers posted a big 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Center of the Hockey Universe and got some much-needed help on the out of town scoreboard last night. Florida's thirty-fourth win of the season combined with the Senators 5-1 loss to the Rangers and the Ducks 3-2 overtime win over the Bruins left the Cats just three points behind Ottawa and Boston in the chase for the final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.
After a scoreless first period that saw the club's each produce nine shots on goal, the Panthers' top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau took over the game early in the second period.
Huberdeau opened the scoring at the 4:23 mark with his thirteen goal of the season after taking a drop pass from Barkov and going top shelf on Buds' starter Jonathan Bernier. Alex Petrovic picked up the secondary assist on Huberdeau's deadly wrist shot.
The Cats added to the lead thirty seconds later when Jagr collected a loose puck behind the net and flipped it back to Steven Kampfer, who smacked it by Bernier. Barkov also collected an assist for his second point of the night.
Toronto-native Brandon Pirri chased Bernier with 6:26 remaining in the frame with his nineteenth goal of the campaign. Vincent Trocheck set the play up with beautiful rush and Brian Campbell drew the second helper.
Speaking of beautiful rushes, defenseman Morgan Rielly cut through the Panthers defense to set up Sam Carrick for his first NHL goal at 9:13 of the third period to finally get the Maple Leafs on the board.
Roberto Luongo, who finished with 24 saves, shut the door the rest of the way to pick up the 399th victory of his career.
Pirri became the second Panther to hit the twenty-goal plateau this season when he stole the puck at his own blue line and found the empty net to ice the game with 1:36 left on the clock. The 23-year-old has scored seven times in the last seven games.
Odds & Ends
- Brandon Pirri's two goals gave him 17 in his last 22 outings. According to the Captain, we haven't had that spirit here since 2000-01. Pirri led the Cats with six shots on goal.
- The Panthers raised their record to 7-4-1 with Jaromir Jagr in the lineup.
- Jonathan Bernier turned aside 13 of 16 shots before getting pulled. James Reimer stopped all 11 shots he faced in relief.
- The Cats' penalty kill went a perfect 3-for-3. The club has killed off 31 of 33 over the last 14 games.
- Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk, who Luongo robbed twice, each finished the game with -3 ratings. Yikes...
- Vincent Trocheck now has points in back-to-back games after ending a five-game drought. Trocheck has done a solid job filling in for injured Nick Bjugstad.
- The Buds dominated the Cats in the dot, winning 40 face-offs to Florida's 21.
- Pension Plan Puppets has you covered for more on Toronto's seventh straight loss.