Well, so much for that winning streak. The Florida Panthers were completely routed 6-1 by the resurgent Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday night at Air Canada Centre. It was the Cats worst defeat of the season, so far.
Connor Brown scored the first of his two goals 5:55 into the opening period to get the Buds off to a good start. Brown redirected a point shot by Morgan Rielly by James Reimer for his second of the season. Nazem Kadri picked up the secondary assist on the goal, which was initially waived off due to a high stick, but overturned by replay review.
The Panthers replied 4:26 later when Aaron Ekblad notched his fourth of the campaign from Jared McCann and Denis Malgin. The forward duo did some hard work along the boards to capture the puck, and McCann eventually came up with it and worked his free behind the net to find Ekblad for a nice one-timer.
Brown showed off some nifty moves to bag his second marker and put Toronto on top for good. After taking a pass from Leo Komarov, Brown rushed up ice, bulled his way through Ekblad, and drew Jason Demers to the ice before putting the past Reimer for the first multi-goal game of his young career.
With the crowd still abuzz after Brown’s goal, Mitchell Marner displayed his impressive skill set with an electrifying breakaway tally 1:27 later. Marner took a chip pass from James van Reimsdyk and fended off Michael Matheson on his way to the net. The rookie then deked Reimer backhand-to-forehand and slid the puck into the yawning cage for his seventh goal.
The Maple Leafs continued to pour it on in the second period. Komarov scored, from Brown and Kadri, at the 7:45 mark to put the home team up by three. After Kadri beat Aleksander Barkov on a face-off in his own end to start the rush, Brown fed Komarov, who chipped the puck into the top of the net for the goal.
van Reimsdyk scored with 1:07 left in the middle stanza to pick up his second point of the night. Dylan McIlrath, making his Panthers debut, coughed up the puck in his own zone and van Reimsdyk collected the gift and easily snapped through Reimer’s legs.
Jake Gardiner completed the scoring with 3:55 left in the game by reeling in a long pass from Brown after emerging from the penalty box and beating Reimer low glove-side from the left circle.
There really are no positives to take away from this game, except for the penalty kill going 4 for 4. The blowout loss was well-deserved as the Panthers were awful defensively, couldn’t score and Reimer, who finished with 24 saves in his first start against his old team, looked like a green ECHLer in this one. I’m not sure why Gerard Gallant couldn’t read the tea leaves and make a switch to try to wake his team up and break Toronto’s momentum, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered much anyways. The road trip rolls on with stops on in Ottawa and Madison Square Garden this weekend.
Rakes & Bags
- Toronto forward Connor Brown finished the best night of burgeoning career with two goals, two assists, 3 shots, 3 blocks, a hit and +4 rating. That’s quite a stat line.
- The Panthers’ first line continues to struggle mightily. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Marchessault each went -3 and Jaromir Jagr went -2. Barkov was held without a shot on goal for the fourth time this year.
- Frederik Anderson finished the game with 26 saves, including a breakaway stop on Colton Sceviour midway through the second period.
- The Cats held Auston Matthews to just two shots on goal. The first overall pick in this summer’s draft has not lit the lamp in eleven games.
- Florida’s power play tumbled to 20th (14.8%) in the league with a 0 for 4 performance at the Air Canada Centre.
- Former Ranger Dylan McIlrath had a tough go of it in his first game with the Panthers. McIlrath went -2 and his gaffe lead directly to James va Riemsdyk’s goal. On the plus side, the big defender did dish out four hits.
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