The Maple Leafs Squander Four Goal Lead to the Panthers; Lose 7-6 in Overtime

Sunrise, FL played host to two of the top teams in the NHL’s Atlantic Division on Tuesday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs took on the Florida Panthers.

Toronto was coming off a massive 6-2 win over the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, and Panthers cross-town rivals, in the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before and taking two points from the Panthers would be no easy task.

Toronto had won five games in a row stretching back just a little over a week ago when they took down those same Panthers in Toronto on March 27, while the Panthers were looking to extend their own win streak to five games, including a wild 7-6 OT win over the New Jersey Devils which saw the Panthers claw back from a 6-2 deficit to win the game.

Unfortunately for Leaf fans everywhere this would end up becoming a sign to come.

Florida opened the scoring early on their 8th ranked power play when Sam Reinhart would deflect home an Aleksander Barkov slot pass for his 25th goal of the year.

Penalties would be the name of the game as both teams would take two penalties each in the first period and with the Panthers capitalizing on their first attempt, William Nylander would convert on the Leafs second PP attempt with just a little over five minutes to go in the first.

Nylander would blast a one-timer past Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky after a well-worked passing play from Toronto’s lethal top PP unit. With Nylander’s 27th tally of the season he now needs four more to match his single season goal record of 31 set back in 2019-20.

Toronto’s play would be unrelenting heading into a level second period as Mark Giordano’s holding call late in the first period would carry over and with only seconds left shorthanded, Mitch Marner stripped the puck from the the Leafs zone and darted down the ice, walking Mackenzie Weeger in the process and leaving Bobrovsky looking for a map as he converted shorthanded.

Marner’s goal would be the 30th of the season, the first time he has hit that mark in his career and his third shorthanded goal this season. With that shorthanded tally that also bumps Toronto’s count to a league leading 14.

Marner wasn’t satisfied with one special teams goal however as just over 20 seconds after the shorthanded marker, Panthers new defensive arrival Ben Chiarot would take an interference call. Marner would make the Panthers pay off a slick wrist shot finding some room underneath the former Vezina winners arm.

But Toronto wasn’t finished as just a little under a minute later Colin Blackwell got his stick on a Morgan Rielly centering pass to give him 10 goals on the season.

A returning Jake Muzzin would also find the back of the net six minutes later as he saw his first action since being injured back on February 21 against the Habs.

As mentioned above the Florida Panthers are no strangers to coming back from a 4 goal lead and on this night it would be no different.

Sam Reinhart would cut the lead deficit to three as he found the back of the Leaf net on the power play once again just a little over halfway through the period after the Maple Leaf bench would be called for too many men on the ice.

Florida would pick up another penalty just a minute later but this time they would be the ones to capitalize shorthanded as Radio Gudas would fire on a weak slapshot on rookie goalie Erik Kallgren which managed to find a way under his shoulder and in the net for Gudas’ first ever shorthanded tally, as the Panthers seemed to find a new life from there.

Kallgren would need to be replaced by Jack Campbell just a couple of minutes later after he took a shot up high which seemed to sting him.

Campbell’s night was not made any easier as prized trade deadline acquisition Claude Giroux would be left all alone in front of the Leaf net as a quick set of passes between him and Jonathan Huberdeau would see the former Philadelphia Flyer captain score his first goal as a Panther and close the gap to one goal.

Toronto’s meltdown would complete after just eight minutes into the third period as both Huberdeau and Barkov would score giving Florida a 6-5 lead after scoring five unanswered goals.

Luckily for the Leafs they would recieve a lifeline late in the period as John Tavares would fire home the team’s third power play goal (on their seventh attempt) to tie the game up once again sending the game to Overtime.

Florida would collect the extra point off the stick of Huberdeau with another slick passage of play between him and Barkov as Huberdeau would finish the night with two goals and five points putting him at 102 points on the season.

Huberdeau is now just four points back from Connor McDavid for the league lead as the race for the Hart trophy is really going to start to heat up during this final stretch of the season.

Toronto would squander yet another multi-goal lead as they had a chance to close the gap between themselves and the Panthers, but unfortunately they would have to settle for a lone point taking 3/4 from the two Florida teams.

With 102 points this is the first time Huberdeau has reached that mark in his career, and it also marks the first time in Panthers history that a player has hit the 100 point mark.

The Leafs will have to take this loss on the chin and get back after it on Thursday when they head to Dallas to take on the Stars to round out a four game road trip, while Florida will look to make it six wins in a row on Friday when the Buffalo Sabres travel down to Sunrise.


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