Tonight’s game began with a ceremonial face off featuring former Maple Leafs and Panthers captain Bryan McCabe. Described by the arena host as “one of the greatest defenders in Panthers history”, he continues to work with the team as Director of Player Personnel.
It was a pretty lousy game - sorry if you were hoping for more against a bottom of the standings team. There were some amazing goals by the Leafs, good plays but it was mostly Alexander Barkov and Roberto Luongo against Mitchell Marner.
In the first period the Maple Leafs came out fast with three shots in the first minute or so, tricking us into thinking it will be a good game. After that the Panthers pen the Leafs into their own zone, get the Leafs out of position, but Frederik Andersen keeps everything out of the net. The Maple Leafs will chip the puck out for a line change, but the Panthers get it and bring it right back in.
After a while Auston Matthews gets the puck deep into the Panthers zone, gets bumped around but he maintains possession in a way that only Matthews can do:
The Maple Leafs first real good chance comes about 12 minutes into the game when Kasperi Kapanen gets the puck to Andreas Johnsson who shoots, but Luongo keeps it out. Then John Tavares misses a pass from Marner as well as the open net.
Things get testy when Zach Hyman is pushed into Luongo by Aaron Ekblad, but Keith Yandle takes exception to this. Hymen gets rough and pulls Yandle off the ice as they both get roughing penalties. Hyman also gets an interference penalty so it’s a power play for the Panthers.
The Panthers have a good power play position, but the Leafs penalty kill keeps them from getting anything good set up. There’s no score on this power play, but you just wait.
William Nylander gets a breakaway pass from Matthews and he tries to get goal number one, but once again Lu makes the save,
The first period winds down with more and more time spent in the Maple Leafs zone; the Leafs will get the puck just up to the blue line but the Panthers manage to keep it into the zone.
With just over a minute to play the Leafs get caught up in a change and play near the bench and get called for too many men. As the clock ticks down, the Leafs try to hold on to split this power play up across two periods, but Evgenii Dadanov gets a pass across the crease to Barkov who tucks it past Andersen.
The Leafs begin the second as they did the first, tricking us with a brief burst of offense. While in the Panthers zone, the Leafs clear the puck but Kasperi Kapanen is caught up in a late hit by Troy Brouwer, which goes knee on knee and Kapanen limps off to the dressing room.
Kapanen shaken up as Brouwer hits him with a late knee-on-knee. pic.twitter.com/EAoenftDip— Flintor (@TheFlintor) December 16, 2018
There’s no call despite this being blatantly late and a ref standing right next to them. Kapanen is only off for a little bit, and comes right back out into the game to get a hooking penalty.
On the Florida Panthers third power play in 30 minutes they score when Keith Yandle gets a pass to Jonathan Huberdeau who scores to put the Panthers up 2-0.
Halfway through the game the shots are 22-11 for Florida.
MacKenzie Weegar takes exception to a hit from Tyler Ennis and starts following Ennis aroudn the rink cross checking him. This bit of personal pettiness nets him consecutive cross checking penalties, which gives the Leafs a four minute power play.
As Weegar goes to the box and tries to have a little tantrum but as he hits the boards with his stick he also gets the ref who tacks on a ten minute misconduct penalty.
To start the power play Barkov gets a breakaway that is thankfully stopped by Andersen. This moment right here is a moment the Leafs do not learn from.
The first two minutes of the power play expires without a goal thanks to some very good penalty killing by the Panthers. The first PP unit is having trouble handling passes as the pucks are bumping and jumping all over the place tonight.
There’s no goal in the second penalty either as the Panthers 21st ranked penalty kill is too much for the Leafs, with the Leafs giving up too many short handed chances for the Panthers.
Mitch Marner tries to get a good chance but he has half a dozen Panthers sticks all over him and he draw a hooking penalty because of it. This time it’s only eight seconds into the power play before the Panthers dump it out. The PK looks like it isn’t really trying that hard against the Leafs much lauded power play, which is having no luck tonight.
No power play goal and the period ends
Kasperi Kapanen almost scores to open the third period, but Luongo isn’t having any of his nonsense. There’s a good amount of passing going on until Marner trips Evgenii Dadanov. While the Panthers power play is fantastic tonight there’s no goal on the fourth attempt.
Jayce Hawryluk gets his first NHL stat as he gets two minutes for tripping Nikita Zaitsev. The Maple Leafs have their fourth power play of the night. This time there are more chances, but nothing of any quality, no threats to the Panthers, and ultimately no goals.
Eight minutes into the third period, the Panthers get their first shot on record as Barkov is undefended in the Leafs zone, but is denied by Andersen.
Mike Hoffman has turnover at the Panthers blue line, and the Leafs keep it in. Jake Gardiner takes a point shot and it’s knocked in by John Tavares cutting the lead to one and ending Luongo’s bid at a shutout.
The Maple Leafs continue to put pressure on the Panthers with Morgan Rielly taking point shots; Nazem Kadri gets the puck up the boards to Marner who stickhandles through the slot and puts the puck up and over Luongo’s shoulder to tie the game.
Then, the Panthers retaliate when they have the puck in the Leafs zone and Barkov comes off the bench and just sits undefended in the slot waiting for the puck. He gets it and easily scores, getting the lead back seconds after the tying goal.
The Maple Leafs pull Andersen with just over two minutes remaining in the third period. Mitch Marner has the puck up high in the Panthers zone, John Tavares is blocking Luongos view and then PING! The game is tied yet again.
Overtime gives us Mitch Marner trying for a hat trick right away, and he and Tavares own the puck for a minute until it’s time to switch to
Then Nylander and Matthews show us something even better in overtime. It’s all Leafs all the time as the Panthers can’t keep up.
Mitch Marner is back out on the ice and keeps Aaron Ekblad trapped behind the net, afraid to make a pass for about ten seconds. Then the play is on, and the Panthers get deep into the Leafs zone. Barkov is once again left undefended, this time right next to Andersen and he scores his hat trick goal to give the Panthers the victory.
The Maple Leafs go 0-1-1 on the mothers trip. They almost won this game that they didn’t deserve to win and lost the game they should have. Florida isn’t a great state for the Leafs.
They have one more stop on this road trip, heading to New Jersey to take on the Devils Tuesday night.
Three days off to practice that power play and penalty kill. They should probably also memorize the names and numbers of the really good Devils players, so they don’t, you know, constantly leave Taylor Hall undefended in scoring position.