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Clemmensen, Panthers extend winning streaks

by Staff

Scott Clemmensen and the Florida Panthers are on a roll.

Clemmensen stopped 28 shots for his third consecutive victory, and the Panthers made it four wins in a row by defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.

Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and Brad Boyes scored for the Panthers (13-17-5), who've won back-to-back games to start a four-game swing through Canada this week. Florida improved to 10-8-1 since Peter Horachek was named interim coach after Kevin Dineen was fired.

"We're looking for progress. We're looking for our team to get better," Horachek said. "We're starting to get that, and the guys are starting to believe that if we play the way we need to play, we can have some success. That's the most important thing.

"We have not brought up standings. We have not brought up where we are. I brought up where we are today, how we want to play today. I try to keep it into 'now,' rather than the future. Our guys are doing a good job; we're finding ways to win."

The four-game winning streak is Florida's longest in two years. Clemmensen has been in goal for the past three after Tim Thomas went down with a lower-body injury last week.

Mason Raymond scored for the slumping Maple Leafs (17-16-3), who've dropped two in a row and five of their past six games. James Reimer stopped 20 shots for Toronto, which was home after a 3-1 road loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

"They were on the road last night and came in late … so we have to take advantage," Boyes said. "We got some goals early and it was kind of big to get that momentum."

The Panthers used a quick transition play to grab an early lead. Defenseman Dylan Olsen broke up a play in his zone and Aleksander Barkov picked up the loose puck. The second player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft sprung Fleischmann, who got a step on the defense and ripped a wrist shot from well inside the left circle that went past Reimer's glove at 3:29 of the first period for his fifth goal of the season.

"We just weren't very sharp in the first [period], and that's a team with a lot of jump right now," Toronto defenseman Mark Fraser said. "We just got outworked early on."

The Maple Leafs were playing for the third time in four nights, but forward Jay McClement rejected fatigue as a reason for Toronto's slugging showing in the first two periods.

"We're not moving our feet enough. We're not physical enough," McClement said. "That's our game, that's when we play well. There's no excuse; we come home and we should be excited, we should be chomping at the bit. I just didn't see that in the first two periods."

Bergenheim had two great scoring chances in a half-minute early in the second period and capitalized on the second to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead. After a turnover by Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner, Boyes sent Bergenheim in alone, but Reimer stopped his wrist shot from between the hash marks. Bergenheim didn't miss at 5:52 when he backhanded a rebound into the net for his fourth of the season. Dmitry Kulikov kept the puck in at the left point, slid to the middle and fed Barkov in the left circle for a shot Reimer stopped. But no one checked Bergenheim, who swatted the puck into the net.

"We had clear-cut possession of the puck, won a faceoff, it goes back to [Gardiner], they end up with a breakaway out of it," Toronto coach Randy Carlyle said. "It's pretty hard to defend a player in that position, and I told him so. You've got to expect to have a higher level of execution than that in that situation."

Boyes followed Bergenheim's example and made the most of a second chance to score for the first time in 12 games. He picked the pocket of Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf inside the Maple Leafs' blue line and went in alone, only to have Reimer stop his quick wrist shot. Bergenheim crashed the net and nudged the rebound back to Boyes, who beat a defenseless Reimer at 16:50 for his ninth of the season.

"I made some mistakes tonight that are unacceptable," Phaneuf said. "[I] take responsibility for it."

Clemmensen wasn't severely tested through the first 39 minutes, but made his best stop of the night with 56.6 seconds left in the second period when he used his glove to rob Nazem Kadri, who was alone in the slot.

Toronto finally broke through 3:43 into the third period when Peter Holland circled toward the high slot and fired a shot Raymond deflected past Clemmensen for his 11th of the season.

Clemmensen made a pair of big saves just before the nine-minute mark, including one on McClement that hit him in the mask.

Carlyle also said forward Trevor Smith broke a bone in his right hand after blocking a shot by Shawn Matthias in the third period.

Material from team media was used in this report.

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