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game recap

Panthers hang on to defeat Maple Leafs

Rookie Grimaldi scores two goals to help Florida build on Atlantic lead

by Mike Brophy / Correspondent

Grimaldi scores two in the 2nd

FLA@TOR: Grimaldi scores two in under three minutes

4/4/16: Rocco Grimaldi scores his second and third goals of the season in the 2nd period just two minutes and 40 seconds apart

  • 00:49 •

TORONTO -- The Florida Panthers took another step toward winning the Atlantic Division with a 4-3 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre on Monday.

The win was the 700th in Panthers history, gave them 99 points this season to pass their previous high of 98 in 1999-2000, and clinched home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rookie forward Rocco Grimaldi had two goals for Florida (45-25-9), and Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov also scored. Al Montoya made 22 saves for his 12th win of the season.

The Panthers, who have won three straight games, lead the Tampa Bay Lightning by four points for first place in the Atlantic. The Lightning lost 5-2 at the New York Islanders on Monday. Florida and Tampa Bay each has three games remaining.

Video: FLA@TOR: Jagr takes selfie with fan during pregame

"We wanted to clinch a spot in the playoffs and we did it, and the next goal for us is to win the division, and we're almost there," Grimaldi said. "We have a few games left to get as many points as we can and obviously we are pretty close, but we can't be satisfied with where we are at."

Colin Greening scored twice for Toronto (28-40-11), which made it 3-2 in the third period after falling behind 3-0 in the second. TJ Brennan had the other goal. 

Jaromir Jagr, who was held without a point in 19:28, said it was a thrill to help the Panthers establish their single-season record for points, but his focus is on what they will do in the playoffs, not the regular season.

"It is a great accomplishment, for sure," Jagr said. "But we need to be working as hard as we can before the playoffs start. Sometimes, you want to take it easy, but it doesn't work that way. You have to motivate yourself to play as hard as you can like you will have to play in the playoffs."

Video: FLA@TOR: Barkov scores through traffic with wrister

Jagr said he was not surprised the Maple Leafs were able to make it a close game after falling behind 3-0 in the second period.

"They beat us once at home and they should have beat us the first game we played here," Jagr said. "They're not a bad team. They have nothing to lose, so they put all the pressure on us. They have a lot of scoring power."

The Maple Leafs played without their leading scorer, center Nazem Kadri, who sat out the first of a four-game suspension for cross-checking the Detroit Red Wings' Luke Glendening in the head Saturday.

After a scoreless first period in which Florida outshot Toronto 9-7, the Panthers opened the scoring at 1:34 of the second period when Bjugstad scored his 14th goal. Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier made a save on defenseman Aaron Ekblad's slap shot from the right point, but Bjugstad scored on the rebound from in tight.

Video: FLA@TOR: Bjugstad slots home game's first goal

Grimaldi made it 2-0 when he scored at 10:31 of the second. The right-shooting Grimaldi broke in on the left wing and snapped a high shot past Bernier to the far side of the net.

Grimaldi scored his second of the night and third of the season at 13:11 when he one-timed a perfect Reilly Smith pass from almost the same position on the ice where he scored his first goal.

Toronto appeared to make it 3-1 at 2:33 of the third period when Byron Froese took a long shot that hit Grimaldi's stick and bounced past Montoya. However, Florida coach Gerard Gallant challenged, and the goal was overturned after video review showed Maple Leafs forward Brad Boyes interfered with Montoya.

Greening made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 5:50, beating Montoya with a wrist shot.

Video: FLA@TOR: Brennan nets rebound to trim lead to one

Brennan made it 3-2 at 8:54 when he scored through a crowd for his first goal with the Maple Leafs. Gallant challenged the goal, claiming there was goaltender interference, but it was upheld after video review determined Florida's Garrett Wilson caused Toronto's Rich Clune to contact Montoya.

The Panthers got that goal back 36 seconds later when Barkov snapped in a rebound for his 27th goal.

Greening scored his sixth of the season and third in two games at 11:53 to make it 4-3. It was the 100th point of his NHL career.

Toronto coach Mike Babcock was dissatisfied with the effort of some of his veteran players.

"I thought our first period was good and our third period was good; I didn't think some of our veteran people were nearly competitive enough," Babcock said. "In the second period, we weren't nearly good enough, and that cost us. They got rolling around on us, and we went to the penalty box too much. That led to momentum, and in the end, it got us in a bad spot."

Video: Panthers survive late surge to defeat the Maple Leafs

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