Florida Panthers

Jokinen scores twice, Panthers stay in first with win over Maple Leafs

Florida Panthers' Logan Shaw (48) and Jussi Jokinen (36) celebrate a goal by Jokinen during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Toronto.
Florida Panthers' Logan Shaw (48) and Jussi Jokinen (36) celebrate a goal by Jokinen during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Toronto. The Canadian Press via AP

Jussi Jokinen was the first to admit luck was a big factor in both of the goals he scored on Thursday night.

They counted, however, and the Florida Panthers were sure glad to get them.

Jokinen, whose 10-game scoring streak was snapped in Monday’s loss in Brooklyn, scored a pair of goals Thursday as the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 at Air Canada Center.

Florida’s second consecutive victory helped it remain atop the Atlantic Division for another day.

“They were two lucky goals for sure but good things happen when you are in the offensive zone trying to make plays,” Jokinen said. “Sometimes good things happen.”

Goalie Roberto Luongo was the story of the opening period as the Leafs outshot the Panthers 12-9 and had several good scoring chances. Luongo ended up with 32 stops in a bounceback game following Monday’s third period breakdowns against the host Islanders.

Michael Grabner went in on a breakaway mid-way through the first, but Luongo made a great glove save to deny him. Then with just 2:31 left in the period he then stopped Zach Hyman with a sharp toe save to keep it scoreless after 20 minutes.

Florida managed to open the scoring on a fluke goal just 24 seconds into the second period when Jokinen's shot was deflected by Toronto defenseman Ben Smith past goalie Jonathan Bernier.

The Panthers got some more luck later in the period, and again Jokinen was the beneficiary. He took a shot from behind the Toronto goal that somehow glanced off the shoulder of Bernier at 9:22 to make it 2-0.

“[Jokinen] put a couple of lucky pucks at the net and he got rewarded with that,” Florida coach Gerrard Gallant admitted. “We find a way to win though. It was a huge two points. At this time of year any points you get are really big.”

The Leafs got back into the game at 16:33 when Morgan Rielly snapped a wrist shot under Luongo's glove for his eighth goal of the season. Yet hat was it for Toronto as Luongo looked very sharp while taking advantage of the luck up front.

“We've had a few [lucky goals] scored against us lately so it's nice to get some,” Luongo said. “It was an important win and I felt very comfortable, I feel good about my game.”

The Leafs pressed for the equalizer in the third period and pulled Bernier with three minutes to play but Jaromir Jagr got his 24th goal of the season into an empty net after Brian Campbell's rink length shot was steered by him at the Florida blueline sealing the win.

Teddy Purcell added another — his first since coming to the Panthers in a trade deadline deal — into an empty net with 22.8 seconds left to complete the scoring.

SPACEY IN SUNRISE?

Actor Kevin Spacey is expected to make his much-anticipated first appearance at a Florida Panthers game on Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings visit BB&T Center.

Spacey, whose face adorns the Panthers’ popular ‘Spacey In Space’ sweatshirt, sent out a video through his Twitter account on Thursday portraying him packing a bag with the custom Florida Panthers jersey he has worn in previous videos shown by the team on top.

In the tweet, Spacey wrote: “No blarney … Spacey IS in space” and tagged the Panthers. Although the Panthers wouldn’t confirm Spacey’s plans, word is he will drop the ceremonial first puck and likely meet with the team on Saturday.

The Panthers have been awarding their top player after wins a blue, hooded sweatshirt with the image of Spacey’s face on it since December. Jokinen was awarded the sweatshirt after Thursday’s victory in Toronto.

▪ Jagr came into the game with 1,856 career points; Toronto’s 18 skaters had a combined career total of 1,832 points.

GEORGE RICHARDS

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