SUNRISE, Fla. --
The Florida Panthers
' roster features eight players born in Ontario, so they've looked forward to games against the Toronto Maple Leafs
The whole team has had another reason to look forward to Tuesday night's fourth and final meeting of the season at the BankAtlantic Center: Florida's dominance over the Leafs in 2011-12.
The Panthers took the first three games, winning by scores of 5-1, 5-3 and 5-3.
To put Florida's offensive output in perspective, consider that the Panthers have scored five goals or more only eight times in 68 games.
Taking it a step further, the Panthers have played 41 games since beating Washington 5-4 at home on Dec. 5. They've reached five goals in two of those 41 games -- you guessed it, both times against Toronto.
"I don't know, sometimes there's just those teams you just have your way with some nights," said Panthers center Shawn Matthias
, a native of Mississauga, Ontario. "Don't want to jinx it right now. With the games that we played against the Leafs, we had a lot of goals where we were driving wide and just shooting and keeping things simple and just playing hard. That's what we've got to do every night to be successful. Some nights the puck is just not going in. You just stick to the basics, and hopefully we can start scoring every night."
Goals have been hard to come by for the Panthers in March. They have been shut out twice this month, scored one goal twice and were held to one goal by Carolina on Sunday before they scored an empty-netter to make it 2-0.
That's what coach Kevin Dineen
was focused on as he prepared for Tuesday's game, not the earlier offensive success against the Leafs.
"That's one stat I don't buy too much into," Dineen said. "You feel where your team is, the ebbs and flows of a season and where we're at right now, there's a large sense of desperation in our game, as well as the Leafs. It has the mixture of a pretty good hockey game.
"You look at your previous games against a team, but you also look at your most recent production and our production recently probably is where the focus is, because we haven't been that strong. Obviously, we've had a couple of strong games in Toronto. Might be the amount of representation our team has from Ontario that guys are certainly up for it, but it's been a good matchup thus far."
Florida's offense against Toronto has been well spread out, with 13 different players scoring the 15 goals.
In the first two meetings, the Panthers chased the Maple Leafs' starting goalie -- Jonas Gustavsson
at Toronto on Nov. 8 and James Reimer
at Florida on Dec. 27.
"They've got a good team over there that moves the puck very well, a good power play," Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf
said. "We've got to be a little bit tighter from the three previous games. They've gotten a little bit too much on us. We haven't played tight enough against them, but to their credit they've got a highly offensive team that's got a lot of speed and they've got a good back end. We know that it's going to be a challenge for us to shut them down, but we've got to play a little bit tighter."
Toronto's first visit to the BankAtlantic Center this season during the Christmas holidays drew 20,406, the Panthers' largest home crowd this season. There should be another big crowd Tuesday night.
That only added to the anticipation for Matthias and the Panthers' other Ontario natives -- Stephen Weiss
, Brian Campbell
, Ed Jovanovski
, Mike Weaver
, Erik Gudbranson
, Krystofer Barch
and John Madden
"Being a Canadian kid, you get jacked up against all the Canadian cities," Matthias said. "Especially the Leafs, being from Mississauga, a Toronto-area native. You know everyone back home is watching you play, it's just exciting, and there's quite a few people I know in the stands tonight. So it should be fun."