The Leafs looked fairly strong in the early goings of this game, with P.A. Parenteau getting a great chance to open the scoring less than 5 minutes in, after some strong work behind the Florida net by Zach Hyman. Florida returned a couple of chances on Jonathan Bernier, but he was equal to the task.
Toronto took the first penalty of the game, as Florida applied pressure and hemmed the Leafs in 7 minutes into the game. Milan Michalek speared Jonathan Huberdeau as Huberdeau attempted to create traffic for a point shot in front of Bernier. Fortunately for the Michalek, his team managed to kill off the power play without much in the way of dangerous chances.
It didn't take much longer for the Leafs to draw their own penalty, as William Nylander twisted and turned in the Panthers' zone with just under 10 minutes left in the first, and managed to bait Dmitry Kulikov into a hooking penalty.
Interestingly, Nylander played on the point for much of the second half of the power play, and although the Leafs had a couple good looks at the net, with Connor Brown getting stopped, and Brad Boyes whiffing on a great one-timer chance. Unfortunately, the Leafs were unable to convert.
Brad Boyes doesn't care if you know he's tanking. pic.twitter.com/QyZvlqChYX— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) March 30, 2016
Then, for the second time in the first period, the Leafs went to the penalty kill with Morgan Rielly in the box for interference. It was a somewhat soft call, but Rielly continued pushing his man away from the puck just a little too long after the puck had drifted away.
On the ensuing penalty kill, Michael Grabner went in on one of his trademark shorthanded breakaways, only to totally flub it. The good news? Grabner and Brown lead another 2-on-1 just seconds later against the Panthers, and Brown put a perfect pass on the tape of Grabner, who simply had to hang onto his stick to open the scoring for the Leafs 1-0.
Grabner SHG pic.twitter.com/BZSwBQvnzg— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 30, 2016
When scoring first, the Leafs were 13-8-4 coming into this game, according to TSN.
With just 26 seconds left in the first period, Connor Carrick and Teddy Purcell took coincidental minor penalties to put the teams in a 4-on-4 situation, but nothing of note happened before the end of the period, when the shots were 10-7 Florida.
I kind of got distracted and missed the first 5 minutes of the second, but by the looks of things, nothing happened, despite the minute and a half of remaining 4-on-4. No one scored, at least.
It took until 13:37 left in the second, Nazem Kadri lost the puck in the offensive zone, and Martin Marincin made a terrible pinch that gave Huberdeau a great 2-on-1 with Rielly back, and Huberdeau scored five-hole on Bernier to tie the game.
The Leafs struck back quickly on the power play with 9:54 left in the period on a penalty drawn by Nazem Kadri on Jaromir Jagr. Kadri slammed home a chance created by Michalek on a short pass in front of the net. Brown picked up the secondary assist, which was his second point of the night.
Kadri goal pic.twitter.com/m1TK6j1L5m— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 30, 2016
Carrick took his second penalty of the night for high-sticking Jussi Jokinen in front of the Leafs' net, and was fortunate that he didn't receive a double minor. Jagr put a great chance off the post behind Bernier but the Leafs got out of the mess without being scored on.
With 3:45 left in the first, Rinat Valiev drew a tripping penalty on Logan Shaw to give Toronto a chance of extending its lead and Kadri made no mistake. Brown made a great chip pass to Kadri, who out-waited a sliding Roberto Luongo and Panthers' defenders to backhand a slick little shot into the net making it 3-1 Leafs.
Kadri's 2nd goal pic.twitter.com/IGJC6pGKO9— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 30, 2016
At the end of two, the Leafs were down 20-13 in shots but didn't look awful, either.
The teams exchanged chances for the first few minutes of the third, but the best was easily a great backhand pass by Nylander to Parenteau on a quick rush that Luongo absolutely put up a wall to stop.
Parenteau would put his 19th of the season home 6:34 into the third on a power play that Kadri drew once again. Colin Greening stood in front of Luongo taking away his sightline as Parenteau snapped it home from the circle. 4-1 Leafs.
Nylander snapped another great shot at the net at the 10-minute mark and absolutely rang it off the post, and the puck bounced back so hard that it came out into the neutral zone.
Then, with eight and a half minutes left, the inevitable happened. Greg McKegg, the former Leaf, cashed in on a rebound to bring the Panthers to within 2 with his first goal of his NHL career. Former SE Division opponent on a Tuesday night with a former Leaf in the roster? Bernier never had a chance.
McGregg goal pic.twitter.com/vKbXt703HO— Stephanie (@myregularface) March 30, 2016
With roughly 6 minutes left in the third, the Panthers began to press hard for the equalizer, and although they pulled Luongo, Kadri sealed the deal for the Leafs and notched the hat trick, icing the game for the Leafs.
Notes on individual players:
- William Nylander breaks up passes and plays very well with his stick. He's not a defensive superstar (even if that's a contradiction in terms) but he really does a good job on the defensive side of the puck in that regard.
- Connor Brown: 3 assists. <3
- Nazem Kadri just scored a hat trick and entirely shut up all those people who were talking about him diving.