The Toronto Maple Leafs won their third straight game on the road and are leaning on their young players to do it.
Mitchell Marner scored in the third round of the shootout to lift the Maple Leafs over the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Wednesday night. Marner’s shot from the slot went between the pads of Roberto Luongo.
”I was just trying to get it over that stick of his,” said the 19-year-old Marner. ”He got a piece of it and luckily it had enough juice to get through. I wanted that move from the start and luckily it went in.”
Rookie Auston Matthews, also 19-years-old, got his team-leading 17th goal and an assist, and William Nylander also scored for the Maple Leafs. Frederik Andersen made 45 saves and blanked Florida in the shootout.
”The young guys are getting better and better and becoming dominant players,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said. ”We trust them more and have become a better hockey club.”
Vincent Trocheck and Jonathan Marchessault each had a goal and an assist for the Panthers. Luongo stopped 38 shots.
Of greater concern for the Panthers is that team points leader Aleksander Barkov left in the second period and did not return. His injury was not specified after the game.
”We’ll know more tomorrow. Just day-to-day,” Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said.
Barkov, with nine goals and 18 assists, will be sorely missed in a lineup that needs offense.
”It’s tough. He’s a great player. He’s one of the best, if not the best two-way centermen in the league for his age group, so it’s a hard one to replace,” Rowe said.
The Maple Leafs improved to 3-0 against the Panthers this season.
”It’s a good two points for us no matter what,” Matthews said. ”We’re on a bit of a roll right now, and we just have to continue that.”
Florida scored twice in the first 2:43 of the third period to tie it. Marchessault scored 29 seconds in off the rebound of Keith Yandle’s shot, and Trochek then flipped in another rebound off a shot by Jakub Kindle to get his 100th career point.
”For us to battle back, it’s a good push that we see from our team and we’re not going to give up,” Yandle said. ”But finding that extra point, especially now in the second half of the season, we’ve got to do a little bit more to get that.”
The Panthers were awarded a penalty shot when Denis Malgin was interfered with by Jake Gardiner on a breakaway with 6:54 left in the third. Andersen turned aside Malgin’s attempt with a pad save.
Toronto had a potential power-play goal waved off when it was ruled that Nazem Kadri’s right leg made contact with Luongo in the crease before James van Riemsdyk shot the puck in with 3:05 left in the second.
The Leafs made up for it about a minute later during another power play. Nylander took a feed from Matthews and blasted a shot from the left circle that beat Luongo on the stick side with 2:06 left to make it 2-0.
Matthews gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 10:38 of the first. A shot from the slot bounced off Matthews’ body in front of the crease, and when it dropped to his skates, Matthews backhanded it in. Matthews has 11 goals in his past 15 games and leads the Leafs in scoring with 28 points.
Notes: A fan was conscious and taken to a hospital after falling from a balcony during the game, according to Lt. Gus Fernandez of the Sunrise Fire-Rescue Department. Panthers director of digital media Adelyn Biedenbach said the team will investigate the incident and that ”the entire Panthers organization wishes the man a full recovery.” … Maple Leafs C Tyler Bozak returned after missing three games with a lower-body injury. … Goaltender Antoine Bibeau was called up for the game from the AHL Toronto Marlies. … Panthers RW Reilly Smith missed the game with a concussion he got in Friday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Detroit Red Wings.
Maple Leafs: Visit Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Panthers: Host Canadiens on Thursday night.