Nazem Kadri scored three times and rookie Connor Brown dished out three assists to power the rebuilding Buds to the win.
The loss cost the Panthers sole possession of first place, as they remained tied atop the Atlantic Division with the Lightning at 93 points. The in-state rival Bolts currently hold down first place on tiebreakers with each team having six games left on their regular season schedules.
One-time, albeit briefly, Panther Michael Grabner scored the only goal of the first period, completing a shorthanded give-and-go with Brown for his eighth of the season at 15:11. Defenseman Jake Gardiner picked up the secondary assist on the play.
The Cats rallied to tie 6:23 into the middle frame when Jonathan Huberdeau, skating in on a 2-on-1 with Aleksander Barkov, solved Jonathan Bernier five-hole for his sixteenth goal, a new career-high. Barkov and Jaromir Jagr were credited with the helpers.
Kadri bagged his first of the tilt, with the Leafs on the power play, at 10:36 to restore Toronto's one-goal lead. Milan Michalek found Kadri open in front with a backhand pass and the 25-year-old deposited the puck into the gaping net. Brown was credited with the secondary assist, giving him his second point of the night.
The Maple Leafs would strike for another power-play goal with a 1:46 left in the period. This time, Brown collected the rebound of Tyler Bozak's shot and slid it over to Kadri, who put a nice move on Roberto Luongo before easily beating him with a backhand.
P.A. Parenteau scored Toronto's third power-play goal of the night 6:34 into the third period to stake the visitors to a commanding three-goal advantage. Parenteau ripped a shot past Luongo from the right circle after taking a pass from Gardiner.
The Panthers pulled one back when Greg McKegg notched the first goal of his NHL career at the 11:26 mark. After Alex Petrovic put the puck off the back boards, Bernier denied Teddy Purcell's stuff attempt, but McKegg pounced on the rebound and was able to swipe it home.
Kadri completed the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:46 remaining in regulation after he blocked a Jussi Jokinen shot from point and took a pass from Grabner. The hat trick-completing marker was Kadri's seventeenth of the campaign.
Florida outshot the Leafs 34-29 during the game, but were victimized by a horrible performance from its special teams. The penalty kill was breached on three out of four Buds' opportunities, while the power play went 0 for 3 and gagged up Grabner's game-opening goal.
That's not a formula for success, no matter who the opponent is. A better effort will be need Thursday night when the New Jersey Devils come to town.
Stomata & Veins
- Greg McKegg's third period tally was not only his first NHL goal, it was also his first point in 17 big-league games. Congrats Kegger!
- Jaromir Jagr's second period assist gave him sole possession of the team scoring lead with 59 points, one better than fellow veteran Jussi Jokinen.
- Jonathan Bernier stopped 32 shots to notch his 11th win and continue his recent run of fine play. Bernier has allowed two goals or less in his last six starts.
- Gerard Gallant coached his 300th NHL regular season game last night. Gallant sports a 136-130-4-6 record with both the Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets.
- Connor Brown's three-assist performance gave the rookie 6 points in 7 games since making his NHL debut against the Cats on March 17.
- Vincent Trocheck left the game midway through the second period after blocking a shot from Brown. Trocheck is slated to get an MRI today. This is not good news as he will likely miss the rest of the regular season and then some.
- After posting two straight impressive victories, Roberto Luongo, who finished with 24 saves, took a rare loss to Toronto. Luongo was 15-1 in his last 18 starts against the Buds coming into the game.
- The fine folks at war-on-ice have the fancy stats stuff for you here.
- NHL.com has a highlight package you can see with your own eyes.
- If you need your strings pulled after the loss, visit the crew at Pension Plan Puppets.