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Leafs Lose To Panthers

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs



SUNRISE, Fla.  The way the Florida Panthers are playing, they might not even want an All-Star break.

Simply put, they just keep rolling.

Aleksander Barkov _ hours after signing a six-year contract extension _ and Vincent Trocheck had power-play goals, Roberto Luongo made 22 saves and the Panthers tacked on one more win before the break by topping the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Reilly Smith and Jussi Jokinen each had a goal and an assist for Florida. Brian Campbell had two assists and Alex Petrovic added the first goal of his career for the Panthers, who go into the break atop the Atlantic Division and firmly holding second place in the Eastern Conference.

"It's a great break for everybody,'' Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "Not just for our team, but for every team in the National Hockey League.''

Nazem Kadri scored for Toronto, which has lost eight of its last nine games. James Reimer stopped 22 shots for the Maple Leafs.

The only thing that hasn't been working of late for the Panthers was the power play _ they were in a 3-for-51 slide over the last five weeks. That is, until they went 2 for 2 in a 4-minute span of the second period.

Barkov's 13th goal for the season tied the game at 3:49, then Trocheck's 14th came at 7:40 and put Florida up for good. After Luongo made five saves in a span of just more than a minute to keep the Panthers on top, some breathing room for Florida came at 14:13 of the second when Jokinen connected for his ninth goal of the season.

From there, it was academic.

For Florida, three goals just about always means two points _ the Panthers are 20-0-1 this season when scoring at least three times.

Smith scored to make it 4-1, and Petrovic's shot from the right point just happened to get through and past Reimer for the clincher. It was Petrovic's first goal in 82 career NHL games _ his first 66 shots were all stopped over the last four years _ and teammate Jonathan Huberdeau alertly grabbed the puck out of the crease after the play and sent it to the Florida bench for safe keeping.

Toronto's goal came on one of Florida's lone missteps of the night. Panthers defenceman Erik Gudbranson fell down while pursuing a play, allowing Kadri to skate in on Luongo unbothered and beat him for his 10th goal of the season at 17:35 of the first.

The win was the 423rd of Luongo's career, tying him with Tony Esposito for seventh in NHL history. ... At a Maple Leafs-Panthers game, a Devils reunion broke out. Toronto general manager Lou Lamoriello and St. Louis assistant GM Martin Brodeur _ who teamed together to win three Stanley Cups in New Jersey _ had a long chat in the press box between the second and third periods. ... Toronto didn't get its first shot until 6:55 remained in the first period. ... Florida is 15-2-0 when Campbell gets a point, and 20-2-3 when leading after two periods. ... Panthers defenceman Aaron Ekblad got the first fighting penalty of his career.

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