The Florida Panthers got off to yet another slow start and it doomed them again in a 3-2 loss to the seemingly playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs.
Toronto outshot the Cats 13-3 in the first period and scored twice to take a lead they would not relinquish.
Auston Matthews bagged the Buds’ first goal 11:54 into the opening frame to set a new franchise record for most goals by rookie with his 35th. Matthews quickly wristed home Zach Hyman’s centering pass from behind the net to establish the new mark. William Nylander picked up the secondary assist on the historic goal.
The Leafs doubled their lead 2:49 later when Nazem Kadri sent linemates Connor Brown and Leo Komarov away on a 2-on-1 break after a Florida turnover. Brown slid the puck across to Komarov in the right circle and he hammered a one-timer past a helpless James Reimer.
The Panthers turned things around in the second period, despite losing Reimer 11:07 into frame after he was bumped in the noggin by big Brian Boyle. Reimer only had to make one stop in the second and left the game with 12 saves on 14 shots.
With Reto Berra now in the net, the Cats finally got on the board at 15:31 on Reilly Smith’s tidy deflection of Keith Yandle’s pass. Jason Demers collected the second assist for going to point-to-point to Yandle.
Toronto went back up two 3:32 into the third period when Komarov sent Hyman, a former Panther draft choice, in on a shorthanded break and he beat Berra blocker side to reach the 10-goal mark for the first time in his career. Hyman is the fifth Toronto rookie to reach double-digit goals this season.
Jaromir Jagr made things interesting when notched a power-play goal with 56 seconds remaining. Yandle took a shot from the point that Aleksander Barkov deflected on net. Curtis McElhinney couldn’t handle Barkov’s tip and Jagr was there to pounce on the loose puck.
The Air Canada Centre clock ran out on Cats, leaving them with an 0-2 start to their four-game road trip that concludes with stops in Montreal and Boston. The Panthers now trail the Bruins by nine points for the final will card spot in the east, and are just a combination of three points away from being mathematically eliminated.
Rakes & Bags
- Auston Matthews’ first period marker broke Wendel Clark’s Toronto franchise rookie record for most goals set during the 1985-86 campaign. Matthews joined superstars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as the only rookies to score 35 goals since the 1995-96 season.
- After surrendering two power-play goals the night before in Buffalo, the Cats top-ranked penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 against the Maple Leafs.
- Leo Komarov’s goal was the 100th point of the 30-year-old Estonian’s NHL career and came in his 246th game.
- Reto Berra finished with 10 saves on 11 shots in relief of James Reimer. Berra could get his second start as a Panther in Montreal depending on Reimer’s availability.
- Speaking of injured goalies, with Frederik Andersen sidelined, Curtis McElhinney got the start and win for the Buds, raising his record to 7-6-2.
- Tyler Bozak didn’t record a point or even shot, but he did go 14-of-19 on faceoffs to greatly help his club in the possession department.
- Jonathans Marchessault and Huberdeau each saw three-game scoring streaks come to end. Marchessault had four shots on goal while Huberdeau registered three.
- Pension Plan Puppets will pull your strings after Toronto’s fourth win over the Panthers. The Maple Leafs took 9 out of 10 points against the Cats this season.