Defense, goaltending unravel Panthers in 5-1 loss to Maple Leafs

Things were looking up for the Panthers after two big wins in overtime in their past 2 games, but that turned right back around on Thursday night when the Leafs took advantage of the Panthers’ defensive mishaps, handing them a 5-1 loss.

The Panthers surrendered the first goal of the game once again tonight as a point shot was deflected out of mid-air by Connor Brown, catching James Reimer completely off guard as it went 5-hole. The goal was originally called off as a result of the high-stick, but the league reviewed it immediately after and overturned it in favor of the Leafs.

Florida was able to rebound a bit after the goal and got it back after Jared McCann won a puck battle in the corner, went behind the net and fed Aaron Ekblad for a one-timer from the right side. After that, it was all down hill as the Panthers completely unraveled allowing 5 straight goals. Connor Brown got his 2nd of the night when Ekblad missed entirely on a hip check and James Reimer, who was facing the Leafs for the first time in his career since being traded by them last season, was fooled into coming off the post just enough for a shot to find it’s way into the net.

Mitchell Marner got by a flat-footed Mike Matheson at the blue line and scored on a dazzling backhand-forehand move to make it 3-1 near the end of the 1st, and a solid start to the 2nd period by the Panthers was ruined when Leo Komarov scored on a flukey one-handed chip shot on an odd-man rush.

Dylan McIlrath, who was a late addition to the lineup after it was announced that Alex Petrovic would miss the rest of the road-trip with a lower-body injury, turned the puck over on a failed breakout pass in the defensive zone slot, and James van Riemsdyk did not waste any time shooting it past Reimer. Jake Gardiner sealed the deal with a wrist shot from the left circle after skating out of the penalty box for the Leafs’ 6th goal on 30 shots.

Simply put, this was easily the worst game of the season for the Panthers. Passes were off, lines and pairings were out of sync except for a few patches here and there, goaltending was unreliable, and the overall energy level needed to win a game just wasn’t there.

“Our team didn’t show up to play tonight,” said Gerard Gallant. “There was nothing good about our game tonight.”

The Panthers were without Jussi Jokinen who was a late scratch with the flu, so McCann took his place and started the game on the top line with Barkov and Jagr, a line that didn’t last long as he eventually went down to the 3rd – and played pretty well – with Sceviour going up to the 1st.

The Panthers will face the Senators for the first time this season on Saturday night in Ottawa before facing the Rangers on Sunday. The Senators are coming off a 5-1 loss to the Predators on Thursday night with their lone goal coming from Derick Brassard on the power play.

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