The Florida Panthers dropped a strange one to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at the BB&T Center. Both Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured during the game as the Panthers blew a 2-1 third period lead on their way to a disappointing 3-2 defeat. It was Toronto's first road win of 2015, snapping an 0-14-2 skid.
The Cats got off to their usual slow start, surrendering seven of the game's first eight shots to the visiting Maple Leafs. Killing off a tripping call on Brian Campbell gave the team a much-needed wakeup call. Florida carried the play for a spell, but Toronto took back over towards the end of stanza to finish with a 16-11 advantage in shots. That advantage turned out for naught when Brandon Pirri ripped home his twelfth of the season with 18 seconds left before the buzzer. Jimmy Hayes and Vincent Trocheck teamed up for the assists on Pirri's even-strength marker.
Al Montoya came on to start the second period, replacing Roberto Luongo who was shaken up late in the first. The Panthers quickly loaded the gun for the Buds, taking a sloppy too many men penalty 3:47 into the period. Tyler Bozak converted the man-advantage opportunity by knocking a loose puck past Montoya, with the helpers going to Phil Kessel and Morgan Rielly. The Cats would cash in a power-play chance, their first, later in the period. Aaron Ekblad got the goal, breaking the franchise record for rookie defensemen, with a blast set up by Hayes and Jonathan Huberdeau . The teams went to their respective dressing rooms after a pretty evenly played forty minutes with Florida up 2-1 in goals and 25-24 in shots.
The Maple Leafs came out for ready for the third and hit pay dirt right off the bat when Nazem Kadri stuffed Jake Gardiner's hard rebound off the boards by Montoya, who was injured on the play, leading to a long delay while the Big Cubano gathered himself. Toronto took their first lead of the night at the 5:28 mark. Peter Holland got the goal, his tenth, from former Cat fave David Booth. Montoya would have to depart and many wondered if goalie coach Robb Tallas or one of the team's positional players would have to go in goal, but a game Luongo returned to finish out the tilt. The Cats got a chance to even things up when Kadri got sent off for hooking. Florida pressured Jonathan Bernier, who finished with 40 saves, but couldn't finish off whatever juicy rebounds they had in front of them. Bernier and the Leafs shut the door the rest of the way, and once again, the Panthers came up empty in the three-game winning streak department.
Check back in the morning for the A.M. Recap and M.A.S.H. report. The Cats are off until Thursday night's meeting with the Dallas Stars. Good night from muggy Sunrise!