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Hot Leafs Down Panthers

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Niklas Hagman really heated up on the Toronto Maple Leafs' swing through the Sunshine State.

Hagman and Phil Kessel each scored two goals to lift the Maple Leafs to a 6-4 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and an assist, Matt Stajan added an empty-netter with four seconds remaining, and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 26 shots for Toronto (6-11-7).

With his two goals Friday night and the two he scored against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, Hagman has six goals in four games.

``It's nice to have a streak like this,'' Hagman said. ``I've been fortunate when I am getting chances I manage to put it in. You don't want to think about it too much.''

Dmitry Kulikov scored twice for Florida (10-10-4), and Radek Dvorak and Michael Frolik had goals early in the first period. Tomas Vokoun made 27 saves for the Panthers, who have lost three straight.

``For us, four goals has to be enough to win,'' Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. ``We didn't do enough tonight, keeping the puck out of our own end, as a group, to deserve a win.''

Hagman beat Vokoun with a shot at 12:26 in the third period to make it 5-4 and give the Maple Leafs, coming off a 4-3 victory over the Lightning, their first lead.

``Maybe the worm is finally turning for us,'' Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. ``We've been out-shooting everybody and we've got a couple of really confident guys in (Kessel) and Hagman, who have just found a way to get in the net.''

Kulikov scored on the power play at 4:07 in the third to put the Panthers up 4-3, but Kessel again tied the game 13 seconds later with his eighth goal of the season.

Kulikov put the Panthers up 3-2 with his first goal of the night at 8:11 in the second period. Nathan Horton fed the puck to Kulikov, and he sent a slapshot by Gustavsson to snap a 2-2 tie. But with 5:27 left in the second, Ponikarovsky tied the game again with a power-play goal.

The Maple Leafs had evened the score 2-2 with Hagman's first goal of the night at 2:30 in the second period. Hagman took a pass from Ponikarovsky and tipped in the puck. Kessel's first goal of the night came with 7:43 left in the first period. He beat defenceman Keith Ballard then put the puck past Vokoun to make it 2-1.

``It's not the best start with the early goals but we came back strongly and I had some more saves to show my teammates I'm not quitting,'' Gustavsson said. ``We came back and scored a lot of goals and that helped.''

Dvorak opened the scoring at 1:11 in the first period. About a minute later, at 2:04 in the first, Michael Frolik added a power-play goal to make it 2-0.

``You don't want to get down two goals in the first three minutes but it could have been as lot worse the way it was going,'' Wilson said.

NOTES: Florida assigned D Ville Koistinen to Rochester (AHL). Koistinen, who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers this summer, has appeared in 17 games for Florida this season, scoring one goal. ... Panthers C Gregory Campbell, who is recovering from an upper-body injury, was scratched. ... Florida's Steve MacIntyre, who was recalled from Rochester earlier this week, got in his second fight this week. MacIntyre tussled with Toronto R Colton Orr in the first period after fighting the New York Rangers' Donald Brashear on Wednesday night.
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