Andersen backstops Maple Leafs to 3-2 shootout win over Panthers

Third period rally nets sagging Cats a point

The Florida Panthers might want want to think about renaming its holiday homestand the shootout spectacular, although the results certainly aren’t that way by any means.

For the third time in the last four games, the Cats went to the skills competition and came up short for a second straight time, falling by a 3-2 count to Frederik Andersen, who made 45 saves, and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Buds phenom Auston Matthews opened the scoring 10:38 into the action with his seventeenth of season. Matthews was able to sweep the puck home after Connor Brown’s initial shot from higher in the slot struck his body. Zach Hyman started the play off with a steal behind the net.

The Maple Leafs added to the lead with a power-play goal with 2:06 remaining in the second period. William Nylander roofed Matthews’ fine dot-to-dot crossing pass for his eighth, with the secondary assist going to defenseman Jake Gardiner, with Jussi Jokinen serving time for roughing.

Jonathan Marchessault knocked down Keith Yandle’s drive from the point and was able to shovel the puck past Andersen to get the Panthers on the board 29 seconds into the final frame. Vincent Trocheck picked up a helper for getting a piece of Connor Carrick’s clearing attempt that Yandle was able to hold in at the blue line and quickly send towards the net.

Trocheck tied the tilt 2:14 later when he kicked the rebound of Jakub Kindl’s shot to his forehand and found the top of the beckoning net. Marchessault also picked up an assist for his second point of the night.

The Panthers had a chance to forge ahead late, but Andersen stopped rookie Denis Malgin on a penalty shot with 6:54 remaining in regulation. Malgin tried to go backhand on Andersen, but didn’t lift his shot and was stymied by the keeper’s right pad.

Andersen denied Trocheck, Seth Griffin and Nick Bjugstad (a rather curious lineup) in the shootout, setting the stage for Mitchell Marner, who won the game by beating Roberto Luongo low through the five-hole.

The loss was Florida’s third straight, although they did gain a point on idle Boston and now sit three out from the third place Bruins with a game in hand. The Cats host the Montreal tonight to end the disappointing homestand needing a victory to ensure a .500 finish.

Rakes & Bags

  • The Panthers are picking up points under new coach Tome Rowe, just not many wins. Florida is now 4-4-6 since Rowe replaced Gerard Gallant behind the bench and have lost three straight at BB&T Center. Ugh...
  • Nine of Roberto Luongo’s 38 saves came on Mitchell Marner before the rookie beat the veteran in the bottom of third to end the shootout. Luongo made six stops in overtime to get the game that far.
  • Jonathan Marchessault team-leading 11th goal was his first since November 27th and ended a six-game drought.
  • Vincent Trocheck’s assist on Marchessault’s goal was his 100th NHL point. Trocheck hit the century mark in 182 games.
  • The injury-prone Cats lost Aleksander Barkov in the second period. With things already a struggle, losing their best player could be disastrous. Fortunately, this looks to be short term.
  • The Buds are now 3-0 versus the Cats this season. Florida gets two more chances against the Leafs in March.
  • Get your strings pulled at Pension Plan Puppets as they rejoice over Toronto’s continued rapid rise./