Recap: Tavares powers Maple Leafs to 5-2 win over Panthers

Cats do a lot right, but can’t keep up with Buds

John Tavares struck for two power-play goals in the second period to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, who were playing their seventh straight game on the road.

The Panthers continued a recent trend of falling behind early when Auston Matthews passed over to T.J. Brodie and his shot was tipped in by defense partner Morgan Rielly forty-nine seconds after opening puck drop. Before the goal, Mason Marchment had possession and got the puck high in the air, but failed to clear zone.

As they usually do, the Cats bit back, tying things up at the 10:11 mark. Jonathan Huberdeau centered to Sam Bennett from below the goal line and he threw the puck over to Brandon Montour, who pounded a one-timer by Petr Mrazek from the left circle.

A determined Ryan Lomberg put the Panthers ahead 1:27 into the second after Eetu Luostarinen whacked the puck out to him after the pair forced a turnover deep in the Toronto zone. Lomberg ripped a shot over Mrazek’s right shoulder for his sixth of the season.

Penalty trouble would hurt the Panthers soon after. Tavares would claim and deftly steer the rebound of Mitch Marner’s shot around Spencer Knight on the backhand at 5;10 with Radko Gudas off for roughing, and then he easily finished a knifing cross from Marner at 11:12 with Huberdeau serving a hooking minor. Rielly picked up the secondary assist on both goals.

The Cats peppered Mrazek with 18 shots in the third period, but couldn’t find a way to beat the veteran Czech keeper.

Marner would get his third primary of the night, gloving down Justin Holl’s pass at center and then sending Ilya Mikheyev on Knight for a pretty backhand goal to put the Buds up by two with 10:48 remaining.

Matthews notched his league-leading 48th goal, a new-career-high, into an empty net to complete the scoring with one tick left on the clock.

The Panthers did a lot right in this game, unfortunately, a win just wasn’t in the cards. They outshot (36-25), outhit (39-32) and won the faceoff battle (53%) against the Buds, but went 0 for 3 on the power play while Toronto was a perfect 2 for 2. Florida had 38:33 to get another one past Mrazek and they couldn’t finish to tie the game and then got burned on Mikheyev’s goal allowing the Maple Leafs to pull away. The Panthers finished the seven-game run of road games with a very respectable 4-2-1 record. They return home for winnable games against Montreal and Chicago this week, and will see the Maple Leafs again on April 5 at FLA Live Arena.

Rakes & Bags

  • Jonathan Huberdeau earned his NHL-leading 69th assist on Brandon Montour’s eighth goal, giving him 90 points for the second time in his career. He joined Pavel Bure as the second Panther to post two 90-point seasons. Huberdeau is one helper away from tying Joe Juneau’s NHL record for most assists by a left wing in a season.
  • John Tavares delivered his first multigoal game since November 6 (a span of 52 games), when he scored twice against the Boston Bruins.
  • Mitch Marner registered his 18th three-assist game in the NHL. He became the 15th Maple Leafs player to produce 300 assists and is the fastest to accomplish the feat (411 games), surpassing the previous record (469 games) set by Borje Salming.
  • Spencer Knight stopped 20 of 24 shots and saw his record drop to 13-8-3.
  • Aleksander Barkov and Sam Reinhart finished with a game-high five shots on goal.
  • For more on the game get your strings pulled at Pension Plan Puppets./

Video Recap