It’s a battle between a pair of teams battling for the final guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division down in the Sunshine State. The Toronto Maple Leafs are on the road as they take on the Florida Panthers Thursday night. Toronto comes in off a 4-3 road win over Tampa Bay Tuesday night in their last contest. Florida earned a 2-1 road victory over Arizona in their previous game Tuesday night. The Panthers have won both matchups this season, including a 5-3 road triumph in the most recent meeting on February 3.
Toronto Maple Leafs Look to Build MomentumToronto bounced back from their loss to Carolina, who finished the game with a Zamboni driver in net, by putting together a solid showing in beating Tampa Bay on the road. The Maple Leafs entered Wednesday holding the final guaranteed playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, two points ahead of the Panthers. They stood 16 points back of Boston for the division lead. Toronto is one of the league’s most dangerous offenses as they average 3.48 goals per game on the season. The Maple Leafs are struggling to keep the puck out of their own net as they allow 3.27 goals per contest. Toronto is a dangerous team on the power play as they convert 24.4 percent of their chances with the man advantage this season. The Maple Leafs are having some issues in penalty killing as they successfully shut down 76.5 percent of their shorthanded situations on the year: they have five shorthanded goals.
Against Tampa Bay, Toronto rode two strong offensive periods along with a solid penalty killing performance to earn the win. The Maple Leafs held an 11-8 edge in shots in the opening period and took a 2-1 lead to the dressing room. After falling behind 1-0, Jake Muzzin scored his sixth of the year off assists from Jason Spezza and Frederik Gauthier at 12:48 of the period. John Tavares gave Toronto the lead with his 25th of the year, on the power play, at 16:42 off assists from Tyson Barrie and Auston Matthews. In the second period, the Maple Leafs held a 10-7 edge in shots and a 2-1 advantage on the scoreboard to take a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes. After seeing Tampa Bay tie the game, Tavares scored his second of the game and 26th of the year at 12:25 off an assist from William Nylander to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Nylander gave the Maple Leafs a 4-2 lead with his 28th of the year, on the power play, at 14:21 off assists from Mitch Marner and Barrie. In the final period, Toronto was outshot 14-3 and gave up the lone goal but hung on for the victory. Frederik Andersen made 26 saves in the win as Toronto was outshot 29-23.
Florida Panthers Try to Beat Toronto for Third Time This SeasonFlorida had dropped eight of their last 11 games but they managed to scratch out a win in a low-scoring affair with Arizona Tuesday night. The Panthers entered Wednesday fourth in the Atlantic Division, two points behind Toronto for the final guaranteed playoff spots in the division and 18 back of Boston for the division lead. In the wild-card race, the Panthers were four points back of the Blue Jackets for the second wild-card spot entering Wednesday’s action. Florida has been very effective at lighting the lamp this season they average 3.43 goals per contest this season. The Panthers have struggled keeping the puck out of their own net by allowing 3.33 goals per contest. Florida has been very effective on the power play as they convert 22.4 percent of their chances with the man advantage this season. The Panthers have had their struggles in penalty killing as they successfully navigate 77.9 percent of their shorthanded situations on the year.
THAT'S HOW IT'S DONE! Mike Hoffman nets a beaut! 🙌💥#NHL Scoreboard: #FlaPanthers 2 at #Yotes 1@FlaPanthers 🏒 is LIVE on FOX Sports Florida 📺 & FOX Sports Go.📱▶️ https://t.co/MG15X8AyLV pic.twitter.com/3wAO1ImrfX— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) February 26, 2020
Against the Coyotes, the Panthers needed a third-period goal and some stellar goaltending to come up with the two points. In the opening period, Florida was outshot 12-8 and outscored 1-0 to trail after 20 minutes of play. The second period saw the Panthers having been outshot 12-7 but they held a 1-0 edge on the scoreboard to tie the game after 40 minutes. Frank Vatrano scored his 16th of the year at 11:03 off assists from Mike Hoffman and Aaron Ekblad to knot the game. In the final period, the Panthers were outshot 14-11 but held a 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard to earn the win. Hoffman scored his 25th of the year, on the power play, at 8:50 off assists from Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov. That goal stood up as the winner thanks to solid goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky. He made 37 saves for the Panthers, who were outshot 38-26 in the game.
The top trends for this contest are:
- No Key Trends
- Panthers are 0-7 in their last 7 vs. a team with a winning record
- Panthers are 0-4 in their last 4 home games