Five takeaways from the Panthers’ 4-3 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday Night.
▪ 1. Slow start sinks team: For a team desperate to get points, the Panthers were slow out of the gate as the high-flying Leafs skated circles around the cats.
Toronto recorded 16 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes and scored their first three goals on their opening 10 shots.
“The first period cost us the game,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said after the game. “They won all of the 50-50 pucks. We didn’t put anybody up on the glass. Off the cycles, they were doing whatever they wanted with the puck down low. We were standing around watching.”
The Leafs have the second-most amount of first period goals this season heading into Wednesday night’s action (84 goals).
▪ 2. Missed opportunity on special teams: Early in the second period and with Florida trailing 3-1, Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk and Roman Polak collected minor penalties to give Florida a five-on-three chance for 37 seconds.
Toward the end of the power-play, Jonathan Huberdeau had a wide-open net, but Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen stretched out to rob him of what appeared to be a sure goal.
“It was a great play by [Keith] Yandle to cut up behind the net, and I had to put it on the ice,” Huberdeau said of the sequence. “It would have been a different game, probably, but that’s hockey, he made a really good save.”
Florida was also unable to capitalize on their other power-play opportunity late in the third period.
▪ 3. Huberdeau’s pair of goals: Jonathan Huberdeau continues to shine for Florida. He scored his 24th and 25th goals of the season, establishing a new career-high in the process.
“I’m trying to shoot a little bit more, and I have to keep doing it,” Huberdeau said after the game. “I want to help the team, offensively. It’s not just about the goals, but to get some wins.”
It was the first time Huberdeau had a multi-goal game in 2018. He last accomplished the feat on Dec. 22. He scored two goals in a 4-2 win against the Dallas Stars.
▪ 4. Roberto Luongo’s performance: Although it won’t be reflected in the stats, Luongo was the sole reason the Leafs didn’t put the game out of reach.
Luongo made several high-difficulty stops in the first period, including a glove save off Leafs centre Tyler Bozak, who had a wide-open net.
“He’s one of the best goalies in the world,” Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “He did his job tonight, and we didn’t.”
Luongo finished the night with 31 saves.
▪ 5. 25 for Evgenii Dadonov: Dadonov’s five-year stint in the Kontinental Hockey League is paying dividends for Florida. Dadonov scored his 25th goal of the season, and it came as Florida pushed to try and force overtime against Toronto.
Florida committed long-term to Dadonov, signing him to a three-year $12-million contract this past summer. He scored just 10 goals over 55 games split over three seasons in Florida between 2009 and 2012.