Recap: Lyon eyes wild card as Panthers stun Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime

Brandon Montour sets two franchise records with game-winning goal

Brandon Montour’s game-winning goal set a new franchise record (63) for points by a defenseman as the Florida Panthers rallied for a miraculous 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.

In addition to Montour’s fine finish, stick taps to third string goalie Alex Lyon. Lyon filled in for an ill Sergei Bobrovsky and stopped 38 shots, including a stellar glove save on Auston Matthews in overtime and denying Zach Aston-Reese on a second period penalty shot, to guide his outplayed club to a massive victory.

The Panthers opened the scoring one-minute after puck drop when Eetu Luostarinen came up with a turnover in the slot and found Anton Lundell, who quickly buried it for his tenth of the season and first of the month of March.

After the goal, the Cats reverted to their usual first period lethargy, but Lyon got them to the dressing room with the lead by making 14 saves.

Aston-Reese knotted the score 3:13 into the second period. Wayne Simmonds reversed the puck around the back boards to the left point to T.J. Brodie, who blasted a shot that Aston-Reese deflected past a helpless Lyon.

The dangerous Matthews would pot the go-ahead goal at the 6:40 mark of the third. Mitch Marner made a fantastic play below the goal line to take possession of a loose puck while on his knees and then made a perfect pass to Matthews, who hammered a one-timer into the back of the net from just above the left circle.

With time running out on the game, and perhaps their season, a hooking call on Mark Giordano gave the needy Panthers the break they needed to eventually halt its season-high four-game losing streak.

The Cats pulled Lyon and equalized with one-minute remaining in regulation when after taking a feed from Carter Verhaeghe, Aaron Ekblad went point-to-point to Montour and his shot was deftly tipped home by Sam Reinhart.

Shortly after Lyon flat-out robbed Matthews, Reinhart chipped to Aleksander Barkov to send the captain and Montour up the ice on a 2-on-1 break. Barkov calmly cruised towards the net and then sent the puck past Morgan Rielly to Montour, who rapped it past a diving Ilya Samsonov 1:41 into the extra session.

The comeback win pulled the Panthers within a point of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, with the Penguins now holding a game in hand. Florida will head east to take on the Montreal Canadiens while Pittsburgh will host the desperate Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena tonight. As unlikely as it seemed going into the Toronto game. a Panthers win and Penguins loss would see the Cats back in a playoff spot before the night is over. What a wacky season this has been...

Rakes & Bags

  • Brandon Montour’s late game heroics gave him 63 points on the season to pass Keith Yandle for the most points by a defenseman in franchise history. His goal was his fifth game-winner, pushing him past Aaron Ekblad for the most in a season by a Panthers defenseman. I’d say that’s First Star worthy.
  • Ilya Samsonov couldn’t stop Montour’s overtime goal, but he did stop 26 other shots to help his team earn a point, giving them a six-point cushion on Tampa Bay for second place.
  • Florida’s special teams came up huge with the penalty kill going a perfect four-for-four on the night and the power play coming up with the late game-tying goal.
  • Mitch Marner’s highlight reel helper extended his point streak to 11 games. Marner has amassed six goals and 12 assists during the heater.
  • Anton Lundell had gone 12 games without a point before he opened the scoring. The marker gave the NHL sophomore back-to-back season with double-digit goals.
  • Zach Aston-Reese scored on a sweet deflection, drew a penalty shot, had three hits and matched Auston Matthews and Ekblad with a game-high five shots on goal. Nice game!
  • For more on the Cats first win over the Buds this season, stop by Pension Plan Puppets./