TORONTO (AP) Randy Carlyle said it was the best performance he had seen in a long time. Yup, it was one of those nights for Nazem Kadri.
The 23-year-old center had three assists, and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Florida Panthers 6-3 on Thursday for their fifth consecutive home victory.
Kadri has two goals and five assists during a four-game point streak. He picked up his 100th career assist on Nikolai Kulemin’s one-timer at the four-minute mark of the third period.
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”It’s a great achievement for myself, but hopefully there’s a lot more to come,” Kadri said. ”You got to think to yourself when the points are coming easy, it’s just not all about that, you got to make sure you’re good in your D zone, bearing down on face-offs and just allow the coaching staff to put you on the ice in those crucial situations.”
James van Riemsdyk set a career high with his 22nd goal for Toronto, which scored five straight goals after falling behind 2-0 in the first. Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak also scored in the third.
Toronto (28-21-6) has won eight of 10 overall. It was coming off a 3-2 win against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
”Nazy was a difference-maker tonight,” Carlyle said. ”That’s probably the best game he’s played in a long time and at both ends of the rink obviously with the points and distributing the puck, that was making some big league plays.”
Nick Bjugstad and Sean Bergenheim scored in the first for Florida (21-25-7), and Dmitry Kulikov had a third-period goal. Scott Clemmensen made 26 saves.
”When a team comes out after they’ve lost the period, they’re probably getting some bad words from the coach,” Kulikov said. ”We knew they were going to come out strong in the second period and we didn’t handle it.”
Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier made 35 saves, shaking off a slow start.
Florida scored twice on its first seven shots to open a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Bjugstad beat Bernier with a backhand for his 12th goal just 1:39 into the first. Bergenheim then finished off a 2-on-1 feed from Brad Boyes at 13:50. It was Boyes’ 250th assist.
”We were kind of stunned,” Carlyle said. ”The first shot on goal was in our net. It set us back a little bit and we weren’t really moving our feet. We seemed to find a way to get it going.”
Toronto’s impressive response started in the first. Cody Franson cut Florida’s lead in half at 16:49, beating a screened Clemmensen, and the Leafs scored twice in the first minute of the second.
Mason Raymond got his 14th goal on a wrist shot 27 seconds into the second. Van Riemsdyk then tipped a Phil Kessel shot past Clemmensen for a power-play tally at 57 seconds.
With the goal, van Riemsdyk surpassed his previous single-season high of 21 set during the 2010-11 season while he was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kadri helped set up Kulemin and Lupul in the third, lifting Toronto to a 5-2 lead. Bozak finished off a 2-on-1 feed from Kessel at 18:37 of the third.
”We’re moving in the right direction and I don’t know if you can call it a swagger, but our play is getting better and at the end of the day that’s all you’re looking to do is progressively progress,” Franson said.
NOTES: Carlyle expects David Clarkson (elbow) to return during the team’s two-game road trip in Florida. … Toronto forward David Bolland (ankle) is 50-50 to return to the lineup prior to the Olympic break, according to Carlyle. … Florida forward Shawn Matthias (illness) returned to the lineup.