Losing to the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t the worst thing to happen to the Panthers on Tuesday night.
Center Vincent Trocheck, tied with Jaromir Jagr with a team-leading 25 goals, blocked a shot in the second period of the Panthers’ humbling 5-2 loss and is thought to have fractured a bone in his foot.
“There’s something there and we’ll know more [Wednesday],’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “He will do an MRI and we’ll see.’’
Trocheck could miss the final six games of the regular season as the Panthers try to reclaim the top spot in the Atlantic Division and a top seed in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Losing Trocheck won’t help Florida’s quest, yet neither was losing to the Leafs. The Panthers aren’t expected to begin the playoffs until April 14 so Trocheck would have a few weeks to heal.
“He was our best player for a long time, so that’s tough,” Jagr said. “Not only did we lose a game but we lost one of our best players. Hopefully someone will step up. That line had been playing so well.”
Toronto came into the game with the fewest points in the league and the worst road power play yet did plenty of damage against a Florida team coming off big wins against division rivals Boston and Tampa Bay.
With Florida losing, Tampa Bay took back first place in the Atlantic Division without even playing.
The Panthers came into the day technically holding first because they had played one fewer game than the Lightning; now even in games played, Tampa Bay takes over by virtue of having more regulation and overtime wins than the Panthers.
On Tuesday, the Panthers didn’t much look like a first-place team anyway.
“They played better and played good when we were there,’’ Jagr said. “We won that game by luck. We just have to regroup. There’s always the next game. It’s not like this loss knocked us out of the playoffs. We have to forget about this and move on to the next one.”
The loss to the last-place Leafs probably won’t hurt Florida’s playoff chances as much as a loss here to Toronto last March did.
In that game, the Leafs knocked out both of Florida’s goalies as they snapped a long road losing streak.
In this matchup, Toronto scored three power-play goals — it had gone 0-19 on the power play away from home and hadn’t scored a road power play goal since Feb. 15 — and also scored while down a skater.
“We have to figure out a way to stay out of the box,’’ Jussi Jokinen said. “We took way too many penalties.’’
The Maple Leafs took the initial lead when Michael Grabner took a Connor Brown feed on a center ice breakaway and scored a shorthanded goal.
Florida tied it in the second when Jonathan Huberdeau turned things on at center ice after taking in a pass from Sasha Barkov and driving in on Jonathan Bernier and scoring on a heavy wrist shot.
After that, however, the second period belonged to the Leafs as they took advantage of a number of power plays and took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission off a pair of Nazem Kadri goals.
Toronto made it 4-1 in the third before Greg McKegg scored his first NHL goal by jamming home a Teddy Purcell rebound midway through the period. The Leafs ended it with an empty-net goal.
“It was tough but Toronto came in and worked hard like they did [Monday] in Tampa,” Gallant said. “We had a hard time catching up.”
▪ Michigan defenseman Michael Downing will skip his senior season after signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Panthers on Monday.
Downing, 20, had three goals and 17 assists for the Wolverines this season and had 11 goals with 43 assists in 105 games at Michigan.
Although Downing is expected to report to Florida’s AHL team in Portland, Maine, the team will not know whether he will finish his semester in Ann Arbor until next week.
Downing was a fourth-round pick of the Panthers at the 2013 draft.
▪ Gallant coached in his 300th NHL game on Monday; he’s now 136-130-30 with four ties. Gallant, 52, spent parts of three seasons with Columbus from 2003-06 before being hired by the Panthers in 2014.
In two seasons with the Panthers, Gallant is 80-54-24.