Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers Monday at Air Canada Centre:
Panthers’ Bjugstad gets inside positioning on Corrado, game’s first goal quickly follows.
After the teams played the first period without a goal, the visiting Panthers got on the scoreboard first when center Nick Bjugstad gained the inside position on Leafs blueliner Frank Corrado, grabbed a rebound in close and beat netminder Jonathan Bernier at 1:34 of the middle frame.
At 6-foot-6 and 218 pounds, Bjugstad is more than a handful for any blueliner to deal with, and the 22-year-old Corrado couldn’t contain him this time. Corrado remains in the infancy of his NHL career, but as we’ve said in this space more than once, he’s got to mature and develop both mentally and physically to be effective.
Second-period slowdown proves costly for Toronto.
The Leafs traded chances fairly evenly with Florida in the first period, but it was a much different story in the second: through the first 12 minutes, the Leafs were outshot 14-2 – and although Bernier made a number of great stops, the Panthers extended their lead thanks to a pair of goals from rookie centre Rocco Grimaldi.
The 23-year-old Grimaldi’s goals – his second and third of the season, and the third and fourth of his NHL career – came within a two-and-a-half minute span midway through the frame to give Florida a 3-0 advantage. That kind of deficit is tough to overcome regardless of your opponent, but against a playoff-bound team such as the Panthers, it’s all but a guarantee of defeat.
Five penalties in a row against Leafs – but Toronto gets game’s only power play goal.
The officials assessed the first five minor penalties of the night to the Leafs, who killed them all off – and on Toronto’s first man advantage, Colin Greening scored his fifth goal of the season at 5:50 of the third to make it 3-1 for the Panthers.
For the defensive part of that series of events, the Leafs had penalty killers Martin Marincin (who logged a team-best 8:42 on the PK Monday), Morgan Rielly (6:09), Michael Grabner (5:39) and rookie Frederik Gauthier (6:04) to thank; on the offensive side, kudos went to rookie centre William Nylander for his beautiful setup of Greening’s goal. Nylander’s assist was his fifth of the season and his 10th point in 19 career NHL games.
Buds get split decision in video replay.
Prior to Greening’s goal, the Leafs thought they'd scored when forward Byron Froese fired a puck past Panthers netminder Al Montoya, but Florida challenged the play and had the call overturned on video replay due to goalie interference. However, the Buds later benefitted from replay when Florida again challenged a Toronto goal – this time, from defenceman T.J. Brennan at 8:54 of the third – and officials ruled the goal counted.
The video challenge process remains as subjective as any real-time, on-ice call, and the more fans grow accustomed to that imperfect reality, the easier it will be to stomach the decisions that come out of it.
Greening’s big game brings Toronto close, but not close enough.
Just 36 seconds after Brennan’s goal (his first of the season, first as a Leaf, and fifth in 50 career NHL games) Florida restored their two-goal lead via Aleksander Barkov’s 27th of the season. That was crucial, as Toronto continued applying pressure and Greening scored his second of the game – the point also was the 100th of his career at the NHL level – at 11:53 to cut the visitors’ lead to 4-3.
In the end, it wasn’t enough, but there are very few games this season in which the Leafs’ effort disappeared after falling behind to an opponent, and Monday’s tilt against Florida wasn’t one of them. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit, and that’s an important building block for the franchise in the weeks, months and years ahead.