Florida Panthers overcome a blown lead, defeat the Leafs 3-2 in OT

SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Jared McCann /

Following highly impressive victories on Florida’s home stand against playoff contenders PIT and WSH, the resurgent Florida Panthers challenged divisional opponent Toronto Maple Leafs, searching for another statement victory.

The ageless wonder Roberto Luongo squared off against backup net minder Curtis McElhinney for Toronto. However, who would ultimately prevail and prove victorious?

Without Denis Malgin’s presence – expected absence: approximately 1-2 weeks due to a lower-body injury – HC Bob Boughner shockingly slotted the struggling Radim Vrbata onto the 2nd line. The game commenced with both teams committing vacuous penalties; although, neither team capitalized from their gifted power play opportunities. Roberto Luongo defended his cage remarkably, making numerous high-way robberies, most notably against Connor Brown’s between-the-legs attempt.

Eventually, Florida’s persistence offensively resulted in budding superstar Aleksander Barkov scoring a magnificent power play goal. Attracting two Maple Leaf defenders from behind McElhinney’s net, Jonathan Huberdeau wound up dishing an accurate assist for Barkov.

As expected, Aleksander finished rather easily, roofing a wrister top-shelf, providing Florida with the game’s first lead:

Despite Toronto consistently outshooting and outplaying Florida, Roberto Luongo and Aleksander Barkov collectively contributed to Florida’s maintaining of an unsafe one-goal lead, following the conclusion of the highly competitive first period of play.

The second period was quite eventful, with the Panthers continuing their offensive efficiency. Gliding swiftly by the slow-footed Tomas Plekanec, Jonathan Huberdeau scored a highlight-reel goal, extending Florida’s initial one-goal lead to two.

Huby displayed an incredibly nifty, sensational move by stick-handling past the outstretched pad of McElhinney, eventually tucking the puck into the net from a sharp, improbable angle:

However, Florida’s conservative play and lack of aggression, carrying a decisive two-goal lead, haunted the Cats severely. 4th line centerman Dominic Moore unexpectedly potted home a goal, cutting Toronto’s deficit in half (2-1 FLA). Shortly after, the Panthers received another power play opportunity, but failed miserably to take advantage.

Rapidly approaching the near conclusion of the 2nd period, former highly touted Panthers’ prospect Zach Hyman evened the score line (2-2), courtesy of Evgeni Dadonov’s uncharacteristic turnover:

Nearing the final seconds of the second frame, Jonathan Huberdeau’s high-quality, point-blank scoring attempt was denied by the utterly confident Curtis McElhinney, concluding the second period of play tied at two apiece.

The excitement-filled third period consisted of Florida significantly outplaying, outskating, and outmuscling the exhausted Matthews-less Maples Leafs. Evidently, Boughner’s central message of applying consistent offensive pressure – constantly skating in Toronto’s territory, and directing traffic and pucks toward McElhinney’s net mouth – finally kicked in.

Although Florida received yet another power play chance, McElhinney stood tall, stopping all shots heading directly towards him. The third period concluded with the score line evened at two apiece, with both sides earning a highly deserving point. This entertaining, playoff-like affair required an additional five minutes of overtime.

In the beginning, Luongo and McElhinney continually prevented either side from scoring. Roberto Luongo brilliantly denied a streaking Leaf on a breakaway, preserving Florida’s chances of potentially winning this contest.

Following Aaron Ekblad’s desperation dump-out to the neutral zone, Jared McCann retrieved the puck, stickhandled and outskated past two Maple Leafs. McCann, Florida’s unsung hero, absolutely wired a miraculous wrister past McElhinney, providing Florida with the additional point:

The Cats improved to a record of 4 games above .500, and achieved a franchise-record of 9 wins throughout the month of February. In addition, Florida has claimed victory in 10 of their previous 13 games and 12 of their previous 15 games, and have notably defeated TOR, WSH, and PIT, most recently, boosting their playoff odds exponentially.

Your Panthers are back in action on Thursday, March 1st @7:30pm against the New Jersey Devils!