The Toronto Maple Leafs faced the Florida Panthers for the second time this season. The previous game was a 4-3 overtime loss where the Leafs played well except for that pesky ‘defending against the teams best forward’ thing.
Last night the Maple Leafs defeated the top of the league Tampa Bay Lightning, so riding high off that victory the Leafs rolled into Miami firing on all cylinders.
Of course, when I say firing on all cylinders, of course I mean Ron Hainsey scores in the first two minutes of the game:
Hainsey just rips the shot from the point, in some nice set up from Kasperi Kapanen and Morgan Rielly.
A couple minutes later Kapanen gets called for hooking Evgenii Dadanov and the Florida Panthers 4th ranked power play will get a chance to tie the game. The Barkov danger is high here, but only for 45 seconds as the Panthers power play gets no chance before Dadanov is called for high sticking Mitchell Marner.
The four on four hockey is perfect for the Maple Leafs, as they spend the entire time in the Panthers half of the ice. Not always in the zone, but the puck never crosses the centre line. The power play isn’t in as much control as the four on four, but the Panthers have the advantage here where they can just ice the puck away, and they’ll keep the Maple Leafs from scoring with the man advantage.
The Panthers get some time in the Maple Leafs zone, and While the Leafs play a bit of keep away, but both Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev gets stripped of the puck and Keith Yandle shoots from the point, the puck is redirected into the net by Mike Hoffman and the game is tied.
Back again in the Leafs zone, the Panthers play some tic-tac-toe that ends with a Colton Scievour shot that Garret Sparks makes the save on. The Panthers are playing much better defense against the Maple Leafs now, completely preventing the Leafs from getting into the their end. Blocking passes, making hits, stealing pucks, everything they do works.
They get into the Leafs end, and Nick Bjugstad gets two great close up shots on Sparks that fail to get in the net. After some more Panthers play Sparks holds the puck for a whistle. The Panthers get some more time in the Leafs zone, shots from the point and things of that nature, and then after a quick time in their own end the Panthers bring it back to the Leafs end.
Jonathan Huberdeau chases down the puck to beat the icing, passes it up to Vincent Trochek in the slot, who passes it to Matheson and he bangs in the puck to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead.
We’re back into the Leafs end the crossbar plays hero as an unblocked shot goes hard at the net but bounces right back out. As the final minutes of the period count down, the Panthers are still in control of the play, keeping things down in the Leafs zone, and the Leafs players struggling to keep up with a bottom of the conference team.
The Maple Leafs seem to be making little effort to get in the shooters way. It’s giving Sparks a lot of practice in his first game back from injury, but it’s not going to help their whole ‘losing the game’ problem.
The second period begins with the puck in the Panthers possession once again, as tonight seems to be a test of the Leafs defense. The Panthers have built some form of invisible wall at the red line, the only time the Leafs get past it, is when they ice the puck. We pass the mark where it’s been 20 minutes since the last Leafs shot on net and halfway through the second period it’s been all Panthers, all the time. This is the hockey Gods getting back at Toronto after the several hundred ‘empty arena’ comments made by the broadcast.
A rare occurrence of the Maple Leafs getting some offensive zone time happens, and it leads to a face off next to Roberto Luongo. It was a fun minute in the Panthers zone, but Florida gets it out, then Morgan Rielly ices the puck. Then, guess what? The Panthers get the puck.
The Maple Leafs get a couple chances, not great ones, but a couple of chances to show some tiny signs of life, but it’s not enough to get control away from the Panthers, or spark any life into the Maple Leafs faithful who made the trip south.
Patrick Marleau gets the crowd on his feet as he comes hard into the Panthers zone and shoots high on Luongo but can’t get it past him. The Panthers get it out, but Nazem Kadri and Marleau come back into the zone right away but Bobby Lu stops Marleau once again.
With five minutes left in the second period the Maple Leafs start showing some more power and offense in this game. They fight for the puck harder and get more offensive zone time, until Andreas Johnsson hauls down [player] and gives the Panthers a power play.
The Panthers get a lot of time to set up their shots on this power play, with Jonathan Huberdeau getting a great chance before the Leafs dump the puck out. Mitch Marner tries to get a short handed goal, but the Panthers clear it out where it’s caught by Zach Hyman, who gets it back in. The Maple Leafs kill Johnsson’s penalty and keeps the Panthers PP at 0/2.
The Leafs are trying in this second period, but it ends as the first one did, with a Panthers 2-1 lead.
The third period begins with a chance for the Leafs, and an icing for the Panthers. SO it’s going Toronto’s way off the bat. The Maple Leafs are quickly called for another penalty, and the third man advantage goes to the Panthers. The Maple Leafs get a short handed chance that has the crowd on it’s feet, but they can’t score on Luongo. The Panthers take the puck back to the Maple Leafs zone, but they don’t get any quality chances and the Panthers don’t score on the power play once again.
Auston Matthews gets a great chance coming in low in the Panthers zone, but Luongo snatches it out of the air with his glove and ends the play. Kasperi Kapanen then fights his way into the Panthers zone to try and tie the game, but Luongo once again stonewalls the Leafs. The Panthers go back to clogging up the blue line, keeping the Leafs from entering their zone gain.
A puck over the glass brings a face off in the Maple Leafs zone, but up off the glass an out works for the Leafs and it gets the puck down to the Panthers zone. The Panthers win the board battles and get the puck out again, and Nikita Zaitsev knocks it out of the rink. The Maple Leafs lose the puck and the Panthers bring it to Sparks who makes the saved but ends up sitting on his bottom losing the rebound, so Marner gets in a plays goalie until Sparks is back on his feet.
The Maple Leafs gets a chance in the Panthers zone where they get the space like a power play, setting up shots with point passes, and all the Panthers are huddled in the slot. Matthews gets a good chance, and the Panthers ice the puck to slow things down. After the face off it’s more time in the Panthers zone, but Jonathan Huberdeau clears the puck and Nick Bjugstad tries for a breakaway that doesn’t happen. As the Leafs ice the puck, the crowd tries to get them moving with a strong “Go Leafs Go” chant.
The face off is in the Maple Leafs zone, and there’s no chances for the Panthers and the Leafs simply change lines before icing the puck again. Halfway through the period the Leafs have shown glimmers of life, but can’t tie up the game.
A few more shots on net for both teams, but overall the ice isn’t open for anyone, as it’s a struggle to get zone time and shots off. Mitch Marner has a breakaway tipped from his stick, Matthews gets denied, Nylander almost scores but can’t get it in. Evgenii Dadanov is denied multiple times. Aleksander Barkov can’t make it to the net. Marner just misses a pass from John Tavares.
As the clock ticks down to two minutes remaining there’s more life in the crowd and on the ice. Desperation sinks in for the Maple Leafs, and their fans. Garret Sparks is pulled for an additional attack, but Frank Vatrano scores into the empty net on a clearing attempt.
The Maple Leafs empty the net again, and Kapanen battles three Panthers in front of the net trying to score, but the Panthers get the puck away and out of their zone. Luongo denies a shot and the rebound scramble gets Kadri a backhand chance, but the Panthers ice the puck. The final minute goes like that a few more times. Face off, Panthers ice the puck. Face off, Panthers ice the puck.
The Florida Panthers will end their seven game losing streak by defeating the Maple Leafs 3-1. The Maple Leafs had a four game road win streak heading into this game, but that is over now as well.
A poor game played by the Leafs, but they’ll come home and rest up on Saturday before hosting the Arizona Coyotes Sunday night, in a double header game at Scotiabank Arena.
The CWHL All-Star Game is Sunday afternoon at 1:30, before the Leafs play the Coyotes. Tickets are cheap and plentiful so if you’re heading to the game, make it a day of hockey.