|Maple Leafs (28-37-11)||1||2||2||5|
|@ Panthers (42-27-9)||0||1||1||2|
The Panthers played very well offensively early on, not allowing the Leafs to even get a shot in for the first four minutes. This speaks to their defense as well, who were also on top of things. The Panthers would get their first power play opportunity of the game when Milan Michalek was penalized for slashing. They weren’t able to get a shot on goal, though, much less an actual goal. As soon as that penalty was killed, Dmitry Kulikov headed to the box on a hooking call. The Leafs didn’t score but they did tie the Panthers in shots on goal, which meant the Cats had to pick up the pace.
With 6:26 left in the period, Morgan Rielly was penalized for interference but this Panthers power play didn’t go exactly as planned. Michael Grabner tallied a shorthander to put the Leafs in the lead. So much for that Panthers defense. The teams ended the period with a 4-on-4 because Connor Carrick was called for slashing and Teddy Purcell was called for embellishment with 22 seconds left. At the end of the period, the Maple Leafs were up 1-0 but the Panthers led in shots on goal 11-8. The Panthers started off well in the first but fizzled out very quickly. The Leafs played last night so they should be the tired party, not the Panthers. The Cats need to up their defense to come back in the final two periods.
The Panthers started off strong once again but this time around, they actually made it count. Jonathan Huberdeau was able to score a snap shot, assisted by Aleksander Barkov and Jaromir Jagr. The Leafs got a power play opportunity when Jagr was penalized for hooking and they were unfortunately able to capitalize. Nazem Kadri scored a goal off the rebound to put the Leafs back in the lead. Connor Carrick got a high sticking penalty and left Jussi Jokinen a little shaken up, but he headed back to the bench and not the locker room.
On the power play, the Panthers had some great chances but could not score. Of course, this was followed by a Panthers penalty because that’s just how this period is. Logan Shaw was sent to the sin bin on a tripping call. Nazem Kadri capitalized for the leafs and scored his second goal of the night. At the end of the period, the Leafs led 3-1 but the Panthers still had the edge in shots on goal 20-13. This period went very similarly to the last. The Panthers started off well, even better than in the first, but they fell off the wagon and allowed Toronto to walk all over them. They must make amends in the third to win this important game.
The Maple Leafs used their speed and youth to find opportunities in their offensive zone. Luongo was able to save each of these in the first five minutes, but he was being worn out by the team. This only intensified when Greg McKegg was called for tripping. Eventually, PA Parenteau cracked Luongo and put the Leafs up by three. This should not be happening. The Panthers even have more shots on goal than the leafs; they just aren’t quality shots. Greg McKegg more than made up for his penalty by scoring a goal, assisted by Teddy Purcell and Alex Petrovic.
Things were still looking bleak for the Cats, though. With just seven minutes left, a comeback seemed nearly impossible. The Leafs put the final nail on the Panthers’ coffin when Nazem Kadri scored an empty netter to complete the hat trick. The Maple Leafs won this game 5-2.
Jonathan Huberdeau put the Panthers on the board midway through the second with a beautiful goal. Greg McKegg scored his first NHL goal to put the Panthers within two late in the third. Other than that, the only well-performing player was Nazem Kadri of the Leafs.
The Panthers will continue their home stand on Thursday, March 31st, at 7:30 pm ET against the New Jersey Devils. Get your rats ready and stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.