TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from their worst loss in nearly 14 years, but still have a lot of room to improve.
Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Maple Leafs edged the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Monday night.
"We looked, quite frankly, like scared to lose. We played too conservative, but it is a step," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said.
Ed Belfour made 31 saves for the Maple Leafs, who lost 8-0 to the rival Ottawa Senators on Saturday night- their most lopsided loss since Dec. 26, 1991, when Pittsburgh beat them 12-1.
Fans booed after Florida's Gary Roberts needed just 26 seconds to score against his former team and record his first point of the season. After a Toronto turnover, Roberts skated between two defenseman and scored.
"Our guys got jittery," Quinn said.
Roberts, who spent four memorable years in Toronto, received a loud ovation when his name was announced before the game. The 39-year-old forward made a couple of crushing checks, sending Toronto's Jeff O'Neill to the ice in the first and Matt Stajan to the ice in the third.
Roberts also slugged O'Neill in the face in the third.
"The puck drops, you got to play your game," Roberts said. "It's still tough playing against your buddies, guys that you went to war with those years here in Toronto. It was a tough game for me to play. I'm happy it's over. I'm not happy we lost."
Belfour, who allowed five goals on 15 shots in Saturday's rout, received a loud ovation when it was announced he earned the games first star. Fans chanted 'Eddie!, Eddie!' after made a series of impressive saves in the final minutes.
"We all felt real bad about that loss," Belfour said. "The best thing is to get back in there, work hard and get a win, and that's what we did."
Darcy Tucker tied it at 1 on the power play at 5:04 of the first. Tucker, alone at the side of the because defenseman Jay Bouwmeester went to cover Kyle Wellwood, scored on a one-timer after a pass from Wellwood.
Ponikarovsky gave Toronto a 2-1 lead at 9:43 of the third with a wrist shot that deflected off sliding Florida defenseman Mike Van Ryn and between the legs of goalie Jamie McLennan.
"We just wanted to get the win so bad because of the previous game," Ponikarovsky said.
McLennan earlier robbed Tucker of a goal in the second with a spectacular kick save with Toronto on the power play.
The Panthers emptied their net and added an extra attacker with 1:21 left, but couldn't score.
Notes: Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin has been cleared to practice. The center's left orbital bone was fractured when he was struck by a puck Oct. 5 in the season opener against Ottawa. He was re-evaluated Monday and was given the OK to resume practicing with the team beginning Tuesday. ... Former Leaf Joe Nieuwendyk didn't make the trip to Toronto because of back spasms. ... Raptors coach Sam Mitchell sat next to Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum.
|Gary Roberts (1) ASST: Sean Hill (4)|
1 - 0 FLA
|PPG - Darcy Tucker (5) ASST: Kyle Wellwood (6), Jason Allison (9)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Alexei Ponikarovsky (3) ASST: Eric Lindros (4), Jeff O'Neill (5)|
2 - 1 TOR
|Power Play %||16.3%||15.9%|
|% on Road||15.9%||11.0%|
|% at Home||16.5%||20.6%|
|Anthony Stewart Too many men/ice - bench|
|Jay Bouwmeester Hi-sticking against Jeff O'Neill|
|Ken Klee Hooking against Olli Jokinen|
|Olli Jokinen Hi-sticking against Aki Berg|
|Aki Berg Hooking against Olli Jokinen|
|Gary Roberts Hi-sticking against Ken Klee|
|Eric Lindros Tripping against Niklas Hagman|
|Olli Jokinen Interference against Kyle Wellwood|
|Alexei Ponikarovsky Hooking against Serge Payer|
|Gary Roberts Roughing against Jason Allison|
|Jason Allison Holding against Gary Roberts|
|Chris Gratton Unsportsmanlike conduct against Clarke Wilm|
|Nathan Horton Roughing against Darcy Tucker|
|Darcy Tucker Roughing against Nathan Horton|
|Clarke Wilm Unsportsmanlike conduct against Chris Gratton|