Joker gets wild as Panthers extend division lead with 4-1 win over Maple Leafs

Strange pair from Jokinen helps net Cats win number forty

The Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1, in a game that was much closer than the score indicated, to extend its Atlantic Division lead over the Boston Bruins to three points with 11 games left on the schedule.

After a scoreless first period that saw the Buds have the better of the play, Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring with a power-play goal 24 seconds into the middle frame. Jokinen's crossing pass intended for Vincent Trocheck was deflected in by Toronto's Ben Smith. The goal came with Brooks Laich in the box for taking a delay of the game call towards the end of Nazem Kadri's interference minor.

Jokinen inadvertently scored again at the 9:22 mark after he collected a turnover behind the Leafs goal and tried to send it in front to Logan Shaw. The puck caromed off defenseman Connor Carrick, maybe Kadri, and the back of a helpless Jonathan Bernier on its way into the net.

Morgan Rielly cut the deficit to one when he lit the lamp with 3:27 left in the period. Aaron Ekblad sweep-checked the carrying Michael Grabner, but the puck went right to Rielly and he cruised down the slot before beating Roberto Luongo, who got a piece of the shot. Rookie Nikita Soshnikov was also credited with an assist.

Luongo would stop all 11 of the shots he faced in the final period to make the lead stand up until Jaromir Jagr and Teddy Purcell iced the game with empty-net goals.

Jagr's team-leading 24th was assisted by Brian Campbell at 17:54, while Purcell's tally was set up by Nick Bjugstad and Jiri Hudler with 23 seconds left on the clock. Purcell's goal was his first in a Panther uniform.

After opening the three-game road trip by blowing a two-goal lead in Brooklyn, the Cats rebounded nicely north of the border to take back the division lead. The Panthers will return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday before hitting the road again with key games in New York (versus the Rangers), Boston and Tampa Bay.

Stomata & Veins

  • After having his ten-game scoring streak snapped in Brooklyn and missing the game in Montreal, Jussi Jokinen returned to notch his first multi-goal of the season.
  • Roberto Luongo finished with 32 stops, including a fine glove save on a first period Michael Grabner breakaway, to post his 30th win of the campaign.
  • Luongo's counterpart Jonathan Bernier delivered a quality start in the loss. Bernier stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced.
  • The Panthers have now reached the forty-win plateau for just the fourth time in franchise history. The last time was in 2008-09, when the team won 41 times. The record for most victories is 43, which was set in 1999-00.
  • Former Florida prospect Zach Hyman registered a game-high (tied with William Nylander) five shots on goal and dished out four hits.
  • Nick Bjugstad's assist on the game's final goal extended his point-scoring streak to four games, while Aleksander Barkov saw his three-game goal scoring streak come to end.
  • The folks at war-on-ice have bundles of fancy stats stuff for you here.
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  • Have your strings pulled while you get the other side of last night's tilt at Pension Plan Puppets./