John Tavares scored four times for the first time in his career as the Toronto Maple Leafs made mincemeat of the Florida Panthers defense and goaltending in a 7-5 win at Scotiabank Arena in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final count indicated.
Tavares notched Toronto’s third, fourth, fifth and sixth goals as the Buds built an insurmountable 6-2 lead when the former Islander lit the lamp 3:57 into third period for his 45th of the season.
Patrick Marleau and Jake Muzzin scored goals 2:15 apart to send Sam Montembeault to the bench 4:21 into game in favor of Roberto Luongo. The rookie made two saves on four shots and should probably be sent back to Springfield or stick to practice sessions if that’s how the team is going to play defense in front of him.
Florida class of 2010 draftee Zach Hyman picked up Toronto’s final tally of the night, hitting the 20-goal mark for the first time. Hyman also had two assists in the game.
Jayce Hawryluk and Jonathan Huberdeau each scored twice for the Panthers, Jayce also added an assist to post his first-ever three-point game, who were essentially blown off the ice by a division rival for the second straight game before making the score look respectable with two late goals.
Mike Matheson scored the other Florida goal late in the first period to cut the deficit to 4-2. The Cats had some chances to get closer early in the second period, but once Tavares completed his hat trick at the 5:51 mark the game was over.
Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov each collected two assists and Aaron Ekblad, Vincent Trocheck, Denis Malgin, Ian McCoshen and Aleksander Barkov also added helpers. Barkov is now seven points away from breaking Pavel Bure’s franchise record of 94 points. Something worth keeping an eye on as this frustrating season winds down.
Roberto Luongo, who was slated to start tonight in Montreal, stopped 28 of 33 shots in relief on Montembeault.
The Panthers have now lost four of their last five and surrendered a frightening 14 goals in the last two games. Limping to the finish won’t be the worst thing in the world as it should help them secure a higher first round pick in the draft, but it certainly won’t be much fun to watch. Florida will get the dreaded “e” tonight if they fail to beat les Canadiens in regulation tonight at Bell Centre.
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)