Obviously someone is being droll with the schedule. Torontonians go to Florida in March Break, not vice versa, and yet here the Panthers are, just in time for that part of the year where the ground is all spongy and you think it's warm enough to not wear a coat and your hands end up blue because you lost your gloves in February.

Tonight's broadcast was brought to me by Fox Sports Florida, so it had a very southern flavour, I'll tell you what. They opened the festivities with a feature on their scouting system which was interesting--they use an analytics department to help evaluate players. They also use traditional scouts, and they followed their OHL guy up the road from me and into Bud Gardens to take in the London Knights.

They panned over the snow piles on streets I know well. There was a long, lingering closeup of the chunk of snow behind the tire on the car. Why haven't we come up with a special word for that? We should get on that. The Panther's scout was watching Olli Juolevi, he said. And so would I, if I were there.

But that's the future, let's come back to the present, or more properly the recent past and talk about the game.

First Period

Connor Brown, drawing into the lineup for the injured Leo Komarov was out with the second shift, getting his feet wet fast in his first ever NHL game in his hometown with his family watching.

It was nice to see Jonathan Bernier in the game. He's been better in the last few games, and it would be lovely if he was going to stay that way, but I don't know if I'll ever believe that until I see it for a lot more than a handful of games. When he's on, he's a clean, simple-style of goalie, who handles the game calmly, and I like that kind of guy.

It wasn’t so nice to see so much of him right off the drop. The post was there for him on a good chance by Bjugstad, and the Leafs got faster, got their skates moving and things moved to the other end.

Jake Gardiner had a good shift--he had lots of them actually--with Brooks Laich's line. He seemed comfortable moving into the play, confident of himself and the forwards he was with. He's been at sea a little with all the rookies, not sure what to do, and it was good to see him looking like he was in charge.

William Nylander is still feeling his way, learning how much time he has, how fast the other team's defence will be on him, and he made a lovely set of moves to carry the puck in and coughed it up easy behind the Panther net. He'll get there. But that's the future again, back to the past.

It was time to welcome Connor Brown to the bigs. Brown had the puck in the offensive zone, and Jaromir Jagr just took it off his stick. Candy from a baby. I bet he was smiling while he did it too.

Michael Grabner stepped right on a Panther miscue and had himself a lovely breakaway to take our minds off of Brown and his woes. You know how that ended. I'm not even going to say it. He made Roberto Luongo work for it though.

The theme of the first half of the period seemed to be let the Panthers have one shot and then take the puck and go. They were not keeping control in their own zone at all, but the Leafs were getting some cycles going.

The tide turned back and forth, Nylander had a chance generated by Gardiner, and then Nazem Kardi took a penalty instead of drawing one as he usually does, to give the Panthers a power play for almost precisely the last two minutes of the period.

The Panthers seemed to set up very spread out for the power play, and the Leafs defensive box had no screens, no traffic, no trouble. At least not until Brooks Laich accidentally shot the puck over the glass and we had one of those penalties. I have zero tolerance for that kind of rigid rule making.

The 5-on-3 was only a few seconds, but the second would open with a near full penalty kill.

The first was a very even period, a lot of back and forth like witty banter, but there was never a punch line. Neither team shot much, and the scoring chances were minimal and not from in very close from either side.

The only standout in the shot differentials was Ben Smith's line with Michalek and Brown. They really struggled. They played a lot of minutes too, never against the Panther's top line, mostly against the second, and they were outshot by 9-1 for Smith, to 9-3 for Brown. Connor Carrick and Rinat Valiev were also in the mix with some poor numbers.

Second Period

Starting the period on the penalty kill is not fun, even if you're on a PK hot streak. Florida got a goal on a deflection off of Ben Smith; Mike Babcock tried the challenge, but no go, and the Leafs were in a hole even though they'd played well.

The Leafs got a power play chance right away, and they got lots of shots going as they usually do. They had movement, but they were a little slow and tentative, and Mike Babcock put Connor Brown and William Nylander out there. Deep end for you, kids. They might be good, but they've got nothing Roberto Luongo hasn't seen.

The Leafs weathered another Florida power play, and the game slowed down. Florida will do this, if you want to take it easy, like it's the middle of the day and it's hot, and you just want to relax, they'll let you. They've got a lot of veteran players who can play a nice easy, lazy summer game, and if you slow it down enough, Jaromir Jagr can play the whole game.

The Leafs let the Panthers get nice and easy with it, and the play stayed in the Leafs end, and suddenly the puck is in the net off of a wild set of deflections and Jussi Jokinen has two goals, and you're not on the beach, Leafs, you're in Toronto, losing this game big. Wake up!

The Leafs don't quit. They kept at it, and Michael Grabner stole the puck and very, very wisely dropped it sweet and pretty for Morgan Rielly to shoot, and in it went, making it a game again. That's a good forward, who knows when the defenceman coming up with him is the guy who should have the puck.

Everyone was suddenly awake, even the crowd, who'd remembered how to chant, Go Leafs Go again as they do once or twice a month. The Panthers penalty that ended the period seemed inevitable, but nothing came of it. But this time the Leafs were going to be starting a period with the man advantage for a few seconds.

Nothing had changed in shot differentials. Smith's line was still struggling against Trochek, and everyone else was doing well on the Leafs.

Third Period

The Leafs put some pressure on, had a lot of success getting into the zone, and generated some chances, but nothing was going in.

P.-A. Parenteau took a penalty right off the faceoff, and the Panthers had control of the game for 2 minutes at the wrong time. The Leafs held them to 0 shots, and then it was time to see if there was a tying goal in them. They had seven minutes to try.

Florida laid back and let them try. Nothing came of it. Babcock pulled Bernier with two and a half minutes, and that's exactly when Jaromir Jagr gets a lucky empty net goal. Teddy Purcell added another to make it 4-1. The joke was on the Leafs to the end tonight.

Final Thoughts

The Leafs limited the Panthers top line to very few shots.

Nylander was good, getting a lot of chances at times, but he's too easy to check. Nylander also had the least managed night of his short NHL career, but he still saw a lot more Greg McKegg than anyone else.

Kadri was, as he ever is, mostly in the offensive zone and mostly generating offence.

Laich and had a great night, but there's no goal scorer on his line right now.

Smith versus Trochek was a train wreck, but Bernier was there when he needed to be. Tough assignment for Brown for his first game, though.

Jussi Jokinen should go play the lottery tonight.