The Florida Panthers broke their three-game winless skid, defeating the Maple Leafs 5-1 in Toronto. The Leafs pulled Jonas Gustavsson after four goals. He was replaced with Ben Scrivens, who only gave up two goals and boosted his team a bit in relief, but it may have been too little too late for Toronto, as Jose Theodore stonewalled their offense all night, and Florida spread out the offense.
Both teams came off of tough losses in their last games: The Leafs were dropped a second time this season by division rival Boston Bruins, 7-0, on Saturday. On Monday, the Panthers were up 3-0 against their own division rival, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and ended up losing, 4-3, in the shootout.
In the race to break their losing ways, the Maple Leafs started out by getting all the chances, and ended the first period leading in shots, 14-8. However, the Panthers struck first off of a fluke goal from Jack Skille, as he placed a puck behind the crease as Gustavsson did a 360-degree turn, not knowing where the puck was at all.
Despite being down a goal, Toronto continued to have the bulk of the chances throughout the second period, creating cycles and moving the puck well into the zone with an aggressive forecheck -- that was, until Marco Sturm and Tomas Kopecky scored goals 19 seconds apart and Florida earned a power play under a minute later.
After the Kopecky goal, the Leafs decided to pull Gustavsson and put in Scrivens, who only faced seven shots, all coming in the third period. Scrivens quickly gave up a goal to Sean Bergenheim, but shortly thereafter, Toronto was finally able to get one past Jose Theodore at even strength. Still, Scrivens gave up one more to Shawn Mattias to even out the final score, 5-1.
Gustavsson explained Toronto's offense as best as he could after the game, calling it "one of those nights where you don't get the bounces and everything hits the posts." The Maple Leafs finished the game outshooting Florida 39-29, and didn't even allow a single power play goal, despite having the worst penalty kill in the league with 70.9-percent. They often had possession of the puck, but just couldn't get that extra push into the net.
Joffery Lupul spoke of Toronto's opportunities on offense, noting the high number of shots, but that Theodore played well and that they didn't distract him enough.
On the defensive side of things for the Maple Leafs, both goalies blamed themselves in the postgame; however, even though Scrivens appears to be the more confident goaltender. Aside from bad luck, it does not help when the defense leaves its goalies out to dry on counterattacks from the opposing team. Four of the five Florida goals developed from long send-ins from the Panther's defense or began with Theodore playing the puck in the Cats' zone.
With a few miscues and moments of miscommunication, the Leafs' defense broke down and their netminder was left with their back turned or unable to recover, causing a few of the "lucky bounces" the Panthers did receive tonight.
Tthe Leafs are still 9-5-1, and these growing pains will occur, especially as they continue to wait for James Reimer and Tim Connolly (again) to get healthy. Nonetheless, one of the key things to notice from this Toronto team is that the offense will need to expand past Kessel, as teams will figure out ways to defend against him and shut him down.
The Panthers are now 5-0-1 after scoring first, and have bumped their overall record to 7-4-3.