Panthers blow away Maple Leafs 7-2 to end five-game skid

Cats come up huge in must-win game

Jonathan Marchessault scored twice to spark the Florida Panthers to a huge, potentially season-saving, 7-2 rout over the Toronto Maple Leafs Tuesday night at the BB&T Center.

The Panthers helped themselves with the win, but the out of town scoreboard failed to provide further assistance, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders each picking up overtime victories to reach 77 points. Last night’s results have the Cats six points out of a playoff spot, a one-point improvement over their prior predicament. Florida has a game in hand on both the Bolts and Isles.

Aleskander Barkov opened the scoring just 18 seconds into the action to set the tone for the rest of the night. Barkov went to the front of the net after winning a offensive zone draw to receive Jonathan Huberdeau’s pass and redirected in off the post and in for his eighteenth of the season.

Colton Sceviour notched his third shorthanded goal of the season at 10:33 to put the Panthers up by two. Sceviour tracked down a clear and broke in on Frederik Andersen before beating him glove side. Derek MacKenzie and Michael Matheson each drew their tenth assists on Sceviour’s ninth marker.

After a bad turnover by Mark Pysyk at blue line, Leo Komarov got the Maple Leafs on the board 3:03 later when he finished off a pretty backhand pass from William Nylander for a power-play goal.

Marchessault came up big and restored Florida’s two-goal lead just 41 seconds after the Komarov goal. The diminutive winger took a short pass from Thomas Vanek at the blue line and quickly flung a wrist shot on net that eluded a screened Andersen.

With Curtis McElhinney in net to start the second, Marchessault potted his second at 4:38 mark after tipping Barkov’s pass into a yawning net to cap off some seriously nice puck movement from the Panthers. Thomas Vanek faked a shot before feeding Barkov to collect his second helper.

Reilly Smith made it 5-1 at 16:22 when he put his own rebound by McElhinney after Keith Yandle’s fine stretch pass sprung a 2-on-1 break. Jussi Jokinen also picked up an assist, back-checking hard to get the puck to Yandle.

The Buds cut the deficit to three 1:57 later on Nikita Soshnikov garbage goal. Soshnikov cashed in after Matt Martin failed to jam Brian Boyle’s rebound past James Reimer. Reimer would yield no more and finish the game with 28 stops to win for the first time in eight starts.

As they did after the first Toronto goal, the Cats quickly answered back. This time, Jussi Jokinen lit the lamp with 27 seconds left in the period, finishing off a gorgeous pass from Vanek with the Cats on a power play. Vincent Trocheck rushed the puck up ice before dishing to Vanek to earn the second assist.

Vanek picked up his career-high fourth assist of the night 2:17 into the final frame when he set up Yandle for an easy goal to complete the scoring. Trocheck again picked up the second assist on the play.

After picking up a rare win on home ice, the Panthers will now embark on a three-game road trip with stops in Columbus, New York and Pittsburgh.

Rakes & Bags

  • Florida matched their season-high of seven goals (against Nashville) in snapping a five-game losing streak. It was the most goals they’ve scored at the BB&T Center this season.
  • Thomas Vanek’s four assists equaled the franchise record, done eight previous times, most recently by Brian Campbell in 2011.
  • Colton Scevior is the first Cat since Radek Dvorak (during the 2009-10 campaign) to score shorthanded three times in a season.
  • Fredik Andersen finished with five saves on eight shots in his 20 minutes of action, while Curtis McIlhinney stopped 20 shots in relief.
  • The Panthers held Toronto rookie phenoms Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner off the score sheet, limiting each to two shots on goal. Matthews has failed to produce a point in six straight games.
  • Reilly Smith’s goal was his first since February 3, when he lit the lamp against the Anaheim Ducks. Welcome back, Reilly.
  • Pull some strings at Pension Plan Puppets as the Cats have knocked the Leafs out of the playoffs, at least temporarily./