Florida Panthers Drop Crucial Game, Falling 4-3 to the Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 28: Auston Matthews
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 28: Auston Matthews /

Following the Florida Panthers’ utterly impressive shutout victory against the struggling New York Islanders, the playoff-hopeful Cats visited Toronto, with hopes of extending their winning streak against the divisional opponent Maple Leafs.

With massive playoff implications on-the-line, Roberto Luongo squared off against Frederik Andersen, but which netminder would essentially capture victory for their side?

In the beginning of the first frame, the Cats played rather sluggish, conceiving a myriad of high-quality scoring opportunities, earlier on. Luongo provided two enormous saves, stopping James Van Riemsdyk on a breakaway, as well as making a highlight-reel blocker save on Tyler Bozak’s wrister. However, Toronto finally cashed in, with the red-hot Mitch Marner scoring an absolutely sensational goal, providing the Leafs with a 1-0 lead.

Florida’s defensive issues became glaringly apparent, as superstar sniper Auston Matthews provided an additional goal, extending Toronto’s commanding lead (2-0 TOR):

Throughout the course of the first period, Florida was severely outplayed and outskated by the surging Leafs. A complete defensive collapse, with Vincent Trocheck falling and the defensively-challenged Keith Yandle foolishly jumping up offensively, essentially gifting Matthews the game’s 2nd goal.

Florida’s notable struggles defensively continued, with Patrick Marleau scoring his 25th of the season, providing the Leafs with a secure 3-0 lead:

Eventually, Jonathan Huberdeau wound up capitalizing for Florida on a two-on-one scoring opportunity, sniping an absolute rocket past Andersen, and cutting Florida’s deficit down to two (3-1 FLA):

The 1st period concluded, with the high-flying Maple Leafs carrying a decisive two-goal cushion into the dressing room.

Although Florida played incredibly poor in the first, they recovered wonderfully, dominating the Leafs in the second frame. The Cats received numerous power play opportunities, including a five-on-three chance, but failed miserably in attempting to capitalize.

Although, the momentum clearly shifted in favor of the Florida Panthers, as they were suddenly outplaying the Leafs in various aspects. After previously becoming denied (highway robbery style), Jonathan Huberdeau recorded goal #2 on the evening, narrowing Florida’s deficit to solely one goal (3-2 TOR):

Despite Florida’s notable continuous efforts regarding directing a myriad of pucks toward Andersen’s crease, the Cats wound up trailing by one-goal, concluding the second period of play.

The 3rd period commenced with the raging Cats determined to claw their way back. However, the Panthers appeared to dominate Toronto throughout the course of the third frame, but the Leafs took advantage of the minimal golden opportunities they were occasionally presented.

JVR registered the Leafs’ 4th of the night, pouncing viciously on a juicy rebound opportunity in front of Luongo’s goal (4-2 TOR):

The Florida Panthers eventually pulled Roberto Luongo with several minutes remaining, in efforts of overcoming an astronomical two-goal deficit against the offensively-potent Leafs squad.

The Panthers’ plan worked perfectly, as Evgeni Dadonov buried home Florida’s 3rd goal of the contest, slicing their deficit in half, once more (4-3 TOR):

However, despite the chances they gained with the net empty, the Leafs prevailed and stood strong defensively, defeating the desperate Cats by a final score line of 4-3.

All in all, the Florida played a solid 2nd and 3rd period, but failed to show up in the first. Poor starts to opening the game has haunted them in their previous outings, and did so last night. Your Panthers are back in action on Thursday, March 29th @7:30pm against the Ottawa Senators!