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game recap

Maple Leafs hold on to third in Atlantic

Defeat Panthers to maintain one-point lead in division race

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs maintained their one-point lead for third place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. 

Toronto (36-24-15) leads the Boston Bruins, who defeated the Nashville Predators 4-1, and has one game in hand. 

Curtis McElhinney made 25 saves, 22 in the last two periods, for the Maple Leafs, who are four points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. 

"You're kind of waiting for them to make a little bit of a push," McElhinney said of the Panthers. "With them playing the night before, I think they were a little slow to get started but they certainly poured it on.

"It's just one of those things; you've got to do your job to make sure you're in the game when those shots come. It feels tremendous; I'll never complain about playing that's for sure."

 

WATCH: All Panthers vs. Maple Leafs highlights

 

McElhinney played with goalie Frederik Andersen (upper body) unavailable.

Auston Matthews scored his 35th goal of the season to break Wendel Clark's record for goals by a Maple Leafs rookie set in 1985-86. 

"Just to be in the same sentence as a guy like Wendel Clark is obviously a big honor," Matthews said. "A lot of credit goes to my linemates all season, it's definitely pretty special."

Florida (33-32-11), which lost at the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Monday, is nine points behind Boston for the second Eastern wild card with six games remaining.

Video: FLA@TOR: Smith finds twine with slick redirection

The Maple Leafs outshot the Panthers 13-3 in the first period and took a 2-0 lead. Matthews scored at 11:54 to make it 1-0, and Leo Komarov scored to give Toronto a two-goal edge at 14:43. 

Reilly Smith made it 2-1 at 15:31 of the second period when he deflected a pass from Keith Yandle over McElhinney's glove. 

Zach Hyman scored his 10th goal of the season, shorthanded, to make it 3-1 at 3:32 of the third period. Jaromir Jagr scored a power-play goal with 56 seconds left to make it 3-2. 

Video: FLA@TOR: Jagr pushes in a rebound for late PPG

"They came out with a lot of pace in the first period, they beat us up the ice a lot, and we ended up paying for it in the end, not being able to bury enough of our chances or take advantage on the power play," Smith said. "We needed a better start tonight and it kind of cost us."

Panthers goaltender James Reimer left the game at 11:07 of the second period, after his head was bumped by Brian Boyle while he was lunging to cover a loose puck. Reimer allowed two goals on 14 shots. Reto Berra made 10 saves and allowed one goal in relief. Florida coach Tom Rowe did not have an update on Reimer after the game.

 

Goal of the game

Nazem Kadri chipped a pass off the boards in the neutral zone to Connor Brown that led to a 2-on-1. Brown skated the puck into the Panthers zone and fed Komarov with a pass for a one-timer.

Video: FLA@TOR: Komarov strikes on two-on-one rush

 

Saves of the game

McElhinney kicked out his left pad to stop a deflection by Jussi Jokinen from the slot. Smith got to the rebound and tried to slide it in, but McElhinney reached back with his goal stick to make the save, keeping the Maple Leafs up 2-0 at 9:00 of the second period.

Video: FLA@TOR: McElhinney reaches back to rob Smith

 

Highlight of the game

Hyman avoided the check of Panthers defenseman Jason Demers behind the goal line and put the puck into the slot, where Matthews got off a wrist shot quickly. 

"That's my game down below the goal line, just trying to make plays behind the goal line, get around defensemen and put the puck in an area where my linemates can score," Hyman said. "Auston finds open space, and it's easy once you get him the puck in that area. Nine times out of 10, it's going to go in."

Video: FLA@TOR: Matthews buries 35th for Leafs rookie record

 

Unsung performance of the game

Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak won 14 of 19 faceoffs (73.7 percent).

 

They said it

"Not going to lie, I wasn't happy at first because I knew it wasn't a penalty, that it was getting hit with the puck. They're people too and they make mistakes. It was actually surprising that they called it back, I actually never saw it before in my hockey career. The referee told me he made a mistake and he wanted to fix it and make it better. So it was a classy move by him." -- Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak on having a high-sticking penalty rescinded by the officials

 

Need to know

Matthews scored the first goal of a game for the 14th time. He is the third NHL rookie in the past 22 seasons to score at least 35 goals, joining Alex Ovechkin (52 for the Washington Capitals) and Sidney Crosby (39 for the Pittsburgh Penguins) in 2005-06. ... Komarov's goal was his 100th NHL point; he had an assist on Hyman's goal to give him 44 goals and 57 assists in 246 games.

 

What's next

Panthers: At the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SNE, RDS, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Maple Leafs: At the Nashville Predators on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, TSN4, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Matthews sets Maple Leafs' rookie record in 3-2 win

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