Maple Leafs rally past Panthers, pad third-place lead in Atlantic
William Nylander scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period, the third of four straight goals by the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-3 win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida on Thursday.
Toronto, which trailed 3-1 in the first period, leads Florida by four points for third place in the Atlantic Division.
Auston Matthews scored his 44th goal of the season, and Frederik Andersen made 24 saves for the Maple Leafs (34-23-8), who are 3-3-0 in their past six games.
“I think we just tried to stay resilient,” Matthews said. “Obviously, you get down early in the first, I think you just try to keep your composure and go out there and take it one shift at a time and just claw our way back. Obviously, it came down to the wire.”
Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves for the Panthers (33-25-6), who are 4-8-1 since defeating Toronto 5-3 on Feb. 3.
“We had a good start but unfortunately we blow our lead,” Bobrovsky said. “We gave up easy goals, not necessarily [good] goals. It was a big game for us and them, and unfortunately we were on the wrong side.”
Nylander got to a loose puck during a scramble in front of the net after a shot from Kyle Clifford and made it 4-3 with 11:00 remaining.
“I think we got them, they had the far change there in the second period, and we were able to, once they got it out, just go right back in the [offensive] zone and spend some heavy shifts in the O zone, which was good,” Nylander said. “I think our [defensemen] have been playing great, but obviously it’s great to spend time in the O zone. I think that’s where we kept their best players out of our D zone, which helped us a lot.”
Kasperi Kapanen got Toronto within 3-2 with 2:17 left in the second period when he took a pass from Jason Spezza and shot from the left face-off dot, and Matthews tied it 3-3 1:15 later.
“It was one of those games where we didn’t do the right things around the offensive zone or manage the puck well,” Florida coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought they were better in the neutral zone than we were tonight. It was a disappointing game. I thought Sergei was all right, he made some big saves in the second and third and gave us a chance, but we have to find a way at home to get something out of this game.”
They said it
“I thought we had good legs, we had the puck a fair bit, we had some stuff happening in their end. They got the lead on us, obviously, but I just liked how our team wasn’t fazed by it, we were just talking on the bench that there was a lot of game left and we’ve got to stay with it. We were confident we’d get our chances throughout the game and we did.” — Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe
“We’re still in it and we’re still in a really good spot but we need wins. We’re going to do everything we can next game. This is the team we are going to have to battle against to make the playoffs.” — Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov
Need to know
Pysyk has scored four of his nine goals this season against the Maple Leafs. He had a hat trick against Toronto on Feb. 3. … Hoffman extended his point streak to six games (eight points; five goals, three assists). … Barkov had a five-game point streak end (six points; three goals, three assists). … The Maple Leafs played their first game without defenseman Jake Muzzin, who broke his hand in a 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. … Nylander extended his point streak to five games (six points; three goals, three assists). He has 18 goals in his past 28 games. … Matthews trails Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak by two goals for the NHL lead.
Maple Leafs: Host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN360, SNO, SNW, SNP, NHL.TV)
Panthers: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday (6 p.m. ET; ESPN+, FS-F, NBCSCH+, NHL.TV)
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) February 28, 2020
William Nylander scored his second straight game-winning goal as the @MapleLeafs (34-23-8, 76 points) moved four points ahead of Florida (33-25-6, 72 points) in the Atlantic Division standings. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/7IGIJbELhq
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 28, 2020