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Maple Leafs aim for sweep of Panthers

by John Kreiser /

MAPLE LEAFS (25-16-5) at PANTHERS (14-26-6)


Last 10: Toronto 5-4-1; Florida 3-7-0

Season series: The Toronto Maple Leafs are going for a sweep of their series with the Florida Panthers. They won 3-0 at BB&T Center on Feb. 18 and 3-2 at Air Canada Centre on March 26.

Big story: For the first time since 2004, the Maple Leafs' season will last beyond the final night of the regular season. But their chances of passing the Montreal Canadiens and grabbing the home-ice edge in the opening round took a hit on Wednesday when they lost 5-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning -- and they have to keep an eye on the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and New York Rangers, all of whom could pass them. The Panthers are last in the overall standings, but are coming off a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers and would like to go out with a victory in their home finale.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto dominated the first period against the Lightning and tied the game at 2-2 when Joffrey Lupul scored in the final half-minute of the second. But the Maple Leafs surrendered three goals in the third period as they lost for the third time in four games.

"We weren't as sharp as we needed to be and if you look back at the first period, we had all kinds of opportunities and the game kind of deteriorated," coach Randy Carlyle said. "We hit two posts in the first period and had an opportunity to go up and really steal the game, but we seemed to get sloppy on our execution and they capitalized on it. We battled back to make it 2-2, but we were unable to carry the momentum into the third period."

Panthers: Florida is playing for pride, and they showed plenty of it on Tuesday by beating the Rangers and keeping New York from clinching a playoff berth. Jacob Markstrom made 36 saves to give the Panthers a victory after they went 0-4-0 on a road trip and were outscored 20-5.

“We talked about it after we came back from the trip that it wasn’t pretty,’’ defenseman Filip Kuba told the Miami Herald. “We want some pride in our game and want to play good for our fans here.”

Who's hot: Phil Kessel scored Toronto's first goal on Wednesday and has six points in his past three games. Lupul, who had the Leafs' other goal, has scored in each of his past three games. … Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and an assist in the victory against the Rangers and leads the Panthers with 33 points.

Injury report: Toronto lists no injuries. … The Panthers' enormous injury list includes Stephen Weiss (wrist surgery), Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery), Jose Theodore (groin), Dmitry Kulikov (undisclosed), Eric Gudbranson (hand), Kris Vertseeg (knee) and Tyler Strachan (upper body).

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