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Five Takeaways - Leafs at Panthers -11/22/17

Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers Wednesday at BB&T Center:

by Adam Proteau / MapleLeafs.com

1. Familiar pattern in shots-on-goal department arises for Leafs in scoreless first period. The Leafs have had a penchant for being outshot by opponents this season - although the quality of the shots Toronto's goalies have faced has been lower in recent weeks. And that was true in the first half of the first period Wednesday: the Buds were outshot 14-2 by the Panthers to start the game, but Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen wasn't overwhelmed by high-quality scoring opportunities. As a result, Toronto kept Florida from scoring in the first 20 minutes, and rebounded in the second half of the opening frame to outshoot the Panthers 5-2 before the first intermission.

The Leafs weren't able to beat Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo in the first, but given that Luongo has posted a save percentage of .930 or higher in four of his past five games, Toronto needed to get more pucks at him than the seven they did in the first.

2. Panthers get game's first goal after unfortunate bounce on behind-the-net play. Toronto continued to build on the momentum they showed in the second half of the opening frame and outshot Florida 12-11 in the middle period, but the Panthers got the game's first goal on an unlikely scoring play. Centre Nick Bjugstad was battling for the puck behind Andersen's net three-quarters of the way through the period and sent it out toward the front, and it ricocheted off the skate of Buds blueliner Connor Carrick and into the Leafs' net at the 15:16 mark.

The goal clearly wasn't created on a set play, but it gave the home team a boost at a time when Toronto was pressuring them and came close to scoring on a few occasions. Puck luck is a real thing, and in this instance, it was on Florida's side and allowed the Panthers to carry their 1-0 lead into the third.
 

3. Toronto turns up heat in third period, but Luongo is on his game, keeps Buds off scoresheet. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock again mixed up his forward lines as the game unfolded, and leaned heavily on a trio that included centre Auston Matthews alongside wingers Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman. However, Luongo continued to play well, got some help from the posts - blueliner Morgan Rielly twice hit the post, including once with approximately four seconds left in regulation - and prevented the Buds from knotting the score through the first half of the third period.

That said, Toronto's forwards did not let their foot off the gas, coming at the Panthers in waves and keeping Florida on their heels for extended stretches of action. The Buds hadn't scored since the second period of their 4-1 loss to Arizona Monday, but they weren't lacking for confidence or drive, and you could sense it was but a matter of time until the hockey gods gave them a little bit of good fortune.

Video: TOR@FLA: Kadri buries snap shot, ties game in 3rd


4. Kadri ties things up, extends point streak to career-best eight games. Sure enough, that good fortune finally arrived for Toronto at the 13:58 mark of the third: on a 2-on-1 break, winger Connor Brown made a perfect cross-ice pass to centre Nazem Kadri, who roofed the puck past a sprawling Luongo and into the Panthers' net for his 11th goal of the season.

The goal rewarded the Leafs for their third-period push, and it was Kadri's eighth consecutive game with at least one point. That marked a career-high for Kadri, who now has 20 points in 23 games. It also was Brown's fifth assist and 13th point of the year, and underscored how many ways the sophomore winger can benefit the Buds when he's on the ice.

5. Leafs come agonizingly close to winning in overtime, but Panthers get win on Bjugstad's shootout marker. After a thrilling overtime period - one in which the Leafs had a handful of chances to win, and one in which Matthews got hauled down on a breakaway that should've been a penalty - solved nothing, the game went to a shootout. It was only Toronto's second shootout of the season (they beat Las Vegas 4-3 on Nov. 6), and although they were able to extend the shootout to a fourth shooter when forward Patrick Marleau beat Luongo, Bjugstad netted the game-winner on Florida's final shot to hand the Buds their second consecutive loss.

The defeat won't sit well with the Leafs, but they did do a lot of things right on this night: Andersen once again was stellar, turning aside 41 of 42 shots he saw through overtime; Toronto outshot the Panthers 21-13 in the third period; and Matthews looks like he's rounding into peak form, finishing with a game-best seven shots on net while leading all Buds forwards with 21:37 of ice time. If the Leafs can do a better job at the start of the game, they're likely to give opponents fits. And they'll have a day off Thursday before having the chance to get back in the win column when they take on the Hurricanes in Carolina Friday.

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