Panthers chances at playoffs dwindle with loss to Maple Leafs
TORONTO (AP) — Mitch Marner led the charge on a night full of milestones for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Marner had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to 10 games and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Wednesday night to set a franchise record with their 46th win.
Toronto also set a high-water mark with its 27th home win. The Philadelphia Flyers held off the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 later Wednesday, keeping the Leafs from clinching a playoff spot for at least one more night.
“Those things are all nice to get,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said of the records. “But we’ve got bigger plans. We’re just moving along and trying to get better. This is a good win, it gives you confidence.
James van Riemsdyk added his 35th goal — and the 200th career — for Toronto, while Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau added their 30th and 25th goals, respectively.
Frederik Andersen made 30 saves and set a career high with his 36th victory.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice, and Evgenii Dadonov also scored for Florida, which got 31 stops from Roberto Luongo, including a couple of big ones early.
Both Huberdeau and Dadonov hit the 25-goal mark.
Florida, meanwhile, remains three points back of New Jersey for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference, with one game in hand.
“These are the games you’re judged on,” Florida coach Bob Boughner said. “This team’s been pretty consistent for the second half of the season, and tonight for 20 minutes we weren’t.”
Toronto came out flying after having its club-record home winning streak snapped at 13 by last-place Buffalo on Monday. Luongo stopped van Riemsdyk on a breakaway, then robbed Tyler Bozak of what looked like a sure goal with a blocker save.
The Leafs broke through at 3:05, when Marner was quickest to his own rebound off the end boards to get his 21st.
Luongo thwarted another chance by Bozak from the slot later in the period, but could do nothing when Matthews beat him five-hole on what turned into a 4-on-2 rush with the Panthers caught gambling at 9:24.
“Wanted to shoot it high and then at the last moment he was kind of standing up, so at the last second I let up a little bit and was able to sneak it in five-hole,” Matthews said. “I think he was guessing glove, and that’s where I thought I was going.”
Matthews scored 40 goals last season as a rookie but has missed 20 games this season with various injuries. He joins van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri (30) in the Leafs’ 30-goal club this season.
Toronto made it 3-0 at 13:55 when Marner wheeled off the boards and found a wide-open Marleau for a tap-in.
Marner has four goals and nine assists in his point streak and 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in his last 20 games.
“It’s been fun,” Marner said. “This team is feeling confident.”
Marleau, meanwhile, tied Frank Mahovlich for 33rd on the NHL’s career list with the 533rd goal.
Florida cut the deficit to 3-1 at 17:49 of the first when Huberdeau took advantage of Zach Hyman’s miscue in the Leafs zone and zipped in his 24th.
Desperate for points in their playoff chase, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize on a 37-second 5-on-3 early in the second before Andersen robbed Huberdeau with a diving glove save after one of the penalized Leafs had returned.
Huberdeau scored at 15:08 when he picked the top corner on Andersen after Aaron Eklad hit the post midway through the period for Florida, which was 13-3-1 over its previous 17 coming into Wednesday.
In the third, Luongo shot out his pad to rob van Riemsdyk again, but the big forward found his own rebound while getting slammed to the ice at 11:48.
Van Riemsdyk has nine goals and three assists in his last eight games.
Dadonov poked goal past Andersen on a rebound with 1:26 left.
Andersen won 35 games with Anaheim in 2014-15. … Tomas Plekanec assisted on Marner’s opener for his first point in 13 games since coming over in a trade with Montreal. … The Leafs won 45 games in 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2003-04, and secured 44 victories in both 1992-93 and 2002-03, but those seasons all came before the NHL instituted the shootout to break ties. Toronto leads the NHL with seven shootout victories this season. … The Leafs’ previous high of 26 home wins came in 2005-06. …
Panthers: Visit Ottawa on Thursday night.
Maple Leafs: Play at the New York Islanders on Friday night before coming home to host Winnipeg on Saturday night.