Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers Tuesday at BB&T Center:
Grabner’s breakaway struggles continue, but veteran atones with Brown’s help.
Winger Michael Grabner had a golden opportunity on offence in the first period when he broke in alone on Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. However – as has been the case in virtually all of Grabner’s many breakaways this season – he failed to score.
Fortunately for him, teammate Connor Brown played an excellent game of back-and-forth with him on a 2-on-1 shorthanded play that took place shortly after the breakaway, and this time, Grabner beat Luongo to record his eighth goal of the season and give the Leafs a 1-0 advantage. Like many players, Grabner can get caught up in his own head if he’s got too much time alone with the puck; when he can receive it from a fellow Toronto player and make a quick reaction, the results for him are often better.
Special teams doing the job for Toronto.
Approximately four minutes after Florida tied the game at 6:23 of the second period, the Buds took their second lead of the night on Nazem Kadri’s power play marker and 15th of the season. Kadri was the beneficiary of a nice feed from winger Milan Michalek, and Brown picked up the secondary assist for his second point of the night.
Getting one shorthanded and three power play goals in the same game isn’t something that’s happened for Toronto this season. That it came against a playoff-bound opponent like the Panthers can only build confidence for the Leafs the rest of the campaign.
Brown’s playmaking talents on full display.
The Leafs padded their lead to 3-1 on Kadri’s second of the game – another power play goal created largely by the excellent hockey I.Q. of Brown, who feathered a three-foot pass to Kadri for his third assist of the game.
Although Kadri will (rightfully) receive praise for the third hat trick of his career – with the third goal Tuesday coming into an empty net – the 22-year-old Brown now has five assists and six points in seven career NHL games since his recall from the AHL Marlies in mid-March. He’s quickly establishing himself as a creative force to be reckoned with.
Bernier continues stretch of strong play.
Goalie Jonathan Bernier turned aside all but two of the 34 Panthers shots he saw Tuesday to record his fourth win in his past six games, and his 11th victory of the season. The six-year NHL veteran has given Toronto stability between the pipes after the trade of James Reimer to San Jose in late February, and deserves kudos for his continued focus despite some well-publicized personal struggles earlier in the year.
Parenteau’s PP goal gets him to a milestone NHL number.
When winger P-A Parenteau scored his 19th of the season at 6:34 of the third, he also hit a special number – 100 goals at the NHL level – in his six years in hockey’s top league. The 33-year-old has been a leader on and off the ice for the Buds this season and has been one of the Leafs’ best off-season investments.