Panthers look to close out road trip with win in Toronto
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TORONTO -- The Florida Panthers had their three-game winning streak end Sunday with a 7-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets, but they have a chance to make a good five-game road trip even better Tuesday when they finish it against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"If we can find a way to get two points in Toronto, we'll get four (wins) of five (games) on this trip, and you'd take that every day," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said.
Both teams are surging. The Panthers have won seven of their past nine games and the Maple Leafs, who are opening a three-game homestand, have won 10 of their past 12 games after defeating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2 on Sunday with a goal in the final minute.
"I just think good teams find a way to win," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. "It's not always pretty, but you just find ways to win."
The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 22 in Florida in the only meeting between the teams so far this season.
The teams meet again Feb. 27 at Florida.
The Maple Leafs (36-20-5), who had a five-game winning streak ended Saturday when they lost 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins, won in Detroit when Auston Matthews scored his 27th goal of the season with 31 seconds left in the third period. Matthews had scored once in his previous five games.
"Obviously, we had a lot of chances last game (in Pittsburgh), over the last couple games," Matthews said. "Had some pretty good chances (Sunday). We've had a lot of really good chances, but the puck just didn't go in. ... It's nice to kind of finish it off there with a minute left and be able to win the game."
The Maple Leafs are a solid third in the Eastern Conference, and the Panthers (26-24-3) are six points out of a wild-card spot.
Toronto backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney played Sunday and James Reimer played Sunday for Florida.
That means that Frederik Andersen will start in goal for Toronto on Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre.
Boughner said Roberto Luongo will start against Toronto and will likely see most of playing time in Florida's final 26 games.
"Going down the stretch, I see Louie playing the majority of the games," Boughner said. "He's our No. 1 guy. We're in a playoff race. Be crazy not to."
Luongo stopped 30 shots Saturday in Calgary in a 6-3 win over the Flames in his return after missing 11 weeks because of a groin injury.
"I like where Louie's at after the Calgary game," Boughner said. "He got through it, was healthy, he feels good. ... I think he's in a good spot physically and mentally."
Reimer has struggled in his return from a groin injury. He has allowed 15 goals in the past three games, including seven against Winnipeg.
"I think Reims, since he's been back, he's probably not at 100 percent," Boughner said. "I'm not talking about physically. I'm talking about his game. (Sunday) night was a tough situation because we sort of fell apart in front of him."
The Jets scored late in the second period to take a 3-2 lead and dominated the third period.
"When you get a little tired, you start making mental errors," Boughner said. "The first thing that goes is the brain. We talked about it before the game. They're one of the best teams at producing shots from the slot area.
"We talked a little bit about their analytics and their numbers. We knew that. No matter how many times we kept going over it, we were making the same mistake.
"A lot of that is fatigue. A lot of that is execution. They beat us to pucks down low in our end and then there are breakdowns. There's duplication, guys start to try to do two jobs and not worry about just their own job. That's what happened. You get breakdowns."
Florida's Aleksander Barkov has five goals and six assists in his past eight games and leads the Panthers with 54 points in 55 games.
Toronto's Mitch Marner has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his past five games, at least one point in eight of his last 10 games (seven goals, five assists), and 46 points in 61 games.
The Maple Leafs are 19-8-2 at home. The Panthers are 13-15-3 on the road.
Updated February 19, 2018