Recap: Matthews, Maple Leafs trounce Panthers by 6-2 count

Lousy effort somewhat mitigated by Pittsbugh’s loss to Dallas

The Florida Panthers got thumped 6-2 on home ice by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a second straight disappointing performance, following Tuesday’s loss to lowly Philadelphia.

Auston Matthews lit the lamp twice including the eventual game-winner when the contest was still close. Toronto pulled away by scoring the game’s final three goals.

After Matthews opened the scoring from long range at 5:05, from Mitch Marner and Mark Giordano, Matthew Tkachuk tied the game with a power-play goal at the 14:25 mark.

Matt Murray somehow stopped Tkachuk’s first shot from a sharp angle, but Tkachuk was able to get the rebound over the goal line. Amazingly, Murray gloved that shot, too, but replay showed that it was indeed a goal. The assists went to Brandon Montour and Carter Verhaeghe.

The Panthers opened the second period in a fog and William Nylander jammed in a loose puck in front at 1:57 after John Tavares outworked Eetu Luostarnin under the goal line and Marc Staal let Nylander plow through and get away from him. Nylander collected his 80th point and Tavares his 70th on the scoring play.

Matthews came out from behind the net after taking a pass from Giordano and beat Sergei Bobrovsky from the right circle 1:37 later. Justin Holl was credited with the secondary assist on Auston’s 34th of the season. The red-hot Matthews has six goals in the past eight games

Both Maple Leafs goals were the result of offensive zone faceoff wins. Ugh...

Florida clawed back into it at 14:25 when Aleksander Barkov took a short pass from Josh Mahura along the left boards and sent the puck to Nick Cousins. Cousins cut across the middle and solved Murray blocker-side with a nasty backhand shot.

Unfortunately, calls on Aaron Ekblad (hooking) and Gustav Forsling (tripping) 31 seconds apart gave the Maple Leafs a two-man advantage and they made converting look easy. Michael Bunting notched the goal after Tavares hit the side of the net following a sweet set-up by Nylander. Tavares got his own rebound and fed into the slot to the waiting, unmarked Bunting, who buried it with 1:39 left in the frame.

The Cats stayed within two for most of the third, but Alexander Kerfoot applied the icing at 14:23 and Marner put the cherry on top 1:26 later with a shorthanded empty-netter.

Just a disappointing night all around. From Eric and Marc Staal not wearing the beautful pride sweaters during warmups; slows starts to the game and second period; the lack of finishing touch, the soft and sloppy defending; a lackluster effort from Bobrovsky - a lot of the Panthers’ warts were on display, costing them a chance to overtake the Pittsburgh Penguins, who did their part by helpfully losing to the Dallas Stars in regulation.

Rakes & Bags

  • Matthew Tkachuk extended his goal streak to an career-high six games and his point streak to seven games. His goal streak is one shy of the Panthers record set by Pavel Bure in 2000-01. Tkachuk played 21:19 in his 500th NHL game and finished with four shots and three hits.
  • Aleksander Barkov is now on a nine-game point streak (2G/12A) and has 10 assists in a seven-game assist streak. Barkov played his 654th game to tie Stephen Weiss for second in franchise history behind Jonathan Huberdeau (671).
  • Keeping on scoring streaks, Carter Verhaeghe had an assist and has amassed four goals and six assists during a seven-game point streak. Toronto’s Mitch Marner extended his point streak to eight games.
  • Matt Murray was tough to beat. The veteran keeper made 33 saves on 35 shots. Sergei Bobrovsky finished with 21 stops. His five-hole was open for business most of the night.
  • With his goal, William Nylander reached 80 points for the second straight season and later set a new career-high in that category (81) when he assisted on Michael Bunting’s PPG.
  • Toronto is two for two against Florida this season. Read more about it at Pension Plan Puppets. Yours truly is off to the dentist./