|Maple Leafs (17-21-9)||1||0||0||1|
|@ Panthers (29-15-5)||0||3||2||5|
The Panthers dominated puck possession in the first five minutes of play and certainly gave Reimer a hard time. They also didn’t make it easy for the rest of the Leafs, as the Panthers played a strong game along the boards from the start. The Panthers continued to have a hold on the Maple Leafs both offensively and defensively. At the halfway point of the period, the Leafs didn’t even have a shot on goal. With 10:22 left in the period, the Panthers got the first power play opportunity of the game because Nick Spaling was penalized for inteference. Once again, the Panthers were able to make offensive moves but at this time and in the whole first half of the period, the Panthers just could not score. They were able to hold off the Leafs well, though. Toronto did not even get a shot on goal for the first thirteen minutes of play.
After that, they began to play a little bit better but the Panthers still had the upper hand. That is, until Nazem Kadri scored and gave the Maple Leafs the lead. They would keep this lead until the end of the period. The period ended with a fight between Aaron Ekblad and Peter Holland that yielded five minute fighting majors for both parties. At the end of the first frame, the Maple Leafs led the Panthers 1-0 but the Panthers led in shots on goal 7-5. The Panthers played fairly well in the first half of the period but didn’t do anything breathtaking or super noteworthy. Then, they dropped off and weren’t taking as much advantage of their possession as before. The problem with that is that it gave the Leafs a chance to come back and take the lead, and that’s exactly what they did. Next period and in the third, the Panthers will not just need to keep the puck, but they will also need to shoot it.
The second period began with both teams playing fairly evenly. It was also a very physical one. Both Dmitry Kulikov and Dion Phaneuf engaged in some rough play and got five minute fighting majors but Dion Phaneuf got the extra penalty in the altercation for boarding. The Panthers had a power play but it didn’t seem to be much of a power play at all until Aleksander Barkov got the puck and faked out Reimer to score a beautiful goal.
The goal was assisted by Brian Campbell and Roberto Luongo so, basically, it was my ideal mixture of three players. Just like that, the game was tied again. With 13:40 left in the period, the Panthers would get another power play attempt. Former Panther Shawn Matthias was the culprit of hooking. The Panthers have suddenly gone from very bad on the power play to very good. Vincent Trocheck was able to score on this one and the goal was assisted by Jussi Jokinen and Brian Campbell.
After this goal, the Panthers would get yet another power play because Morgan Rielly tripped Logan Shaw. The penalty was killed and the Leafs started to put more pressure on Luongo but the puck was cleared out of the zone and Jussi Jokinen scored the magical third goal. The goal was assisted by Reilly Smith.
Since whenever something good happens, it must be evened out with something bad, Jussi Jokinen was penalized for hooking right after his goal. The penalty was killed and in the penalty-filled game that has been occurring, the Panthers headed on the power play right after. This time, it was a Byron Froese hooking call. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 3-1 and also held the advantage in shots on goal 20-14. The Panthers did a complete 180 this period but the Leafs’ carelessness was a huge factor in their success. I’m glad that the Panthers are winning but in order to keep the lead, it is imperative that they do not rely as much on the power play because they may not get the same opportunities in the third.
The Panthers came out buzzing in the third period and soon enough, they were able to capitalize on this momentum. Reilly Smith got ahold of the puck on a rebound and slapped it into the net to give the Panthers a three goal lead. The goal was assisted by Erik Gubranson and Vincent Trocheck.
There was no stopping the Panthers now. Just minutes later, that three goal lead became four. Alex Petrovic scored an unassisted slapper midway through the final frame. With 6:44 left in the period, Shawn Thornton was sent to the sin bin on a tripping call. Some sick moves by Luongo kept the game 5-1. Unlike in the past two Panthers games, the Leafs did not decide to pull James Reimer. I guess they knew what they were up against. In any event, the Panthers won the game 5-1 for their third straight five-goal game.
Aleksander Barkov showed off his new contract confidence with his power play goal early in the second, giving him 13 points in his last 14 games. Vincent Trocheck, a goal scoring machine as of late, got the Panthers’ second of the night. Vincent Trocheck also assisted the Smith goal. Brian Campbell was a huge facilitator of those goals and assisted both of them. In addition to assisting the Trocheck goal, Jussi Jokinen scored a goal of his own late in the second and also was a huge presence on the ice in all three periods. Also with a goal and an assist is Reilly Smith, who scored in the third but also assisted the Jokinen goal. There were two point nights for so many people tonight. Alex Petrovic scored his long-overdue first NHL goal tonight and it was a great one. Luongo not only saved every shot but one, but he also assisted the Barkov goal. He truly is an all star.
After a short break for the NHL All Star Game, the Panthers will head over to the Verizon Center to face the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, February 2nd at 7:30 pm ET. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.