Recap: Leafs at Panthers 4.16.24

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Florida Panthers clinched first place in the Atlantic Division with a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday.

The Panthers finished one point ahead of the Boston Bruins, who lost 3-1 to the Ottawa Senators in their season finale on Tuesday.

“It was good down the stretch, and I liked this game particularly,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “The second period was the first time in a while that we looked the way we should look. You could feel it, feel the energy level on the bench. It’s a good way to go into the playoffs, and it’s not the win, it’s the style of hockey you want to play."

Sam Reinhart scored two goals, Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist, and Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk each had two assists for the Panthers (52-24-6), who went 5-0-1 in their final six regular-season games. Anthony Stolarz made 24 saves.

TOR@FLA: Reinhart fires home a rebound to take the lead

Florida will play the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are the first wild card, in the Eastern Conference First Round.

“It has been a crazy year, but I thought throughout it it was us and Boston kind of in the driver's seat for the division,” Tkachuk said. “It went back and forth. For us to put up today after being down and coming back to win -- we were scoreboard watching. We knew in the third if we got a win we would clinch it. ... It means a lot for us to get home ice."

Auston Matthews remained one goal shy of 70 for the Maple Leafs (46-25-10), who have lost three straight (0-2-1) and will conclude their regular season at the Lightning on Wednesday. Joseph Woll made 37 saves.

Toronto, which will finish third in the Atlantic, will play Boston in the Eastern Conference First Round.

“It’s a funny game. We played a terrific first period,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The game looks a lot worse than it is from there."

John Tavares gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 3:25 of the first period, deflecting Mitch Marner's one-timer from above the right circle.

Noah Gregor made it 2-0 with a wrist shot through a screen at 11:18.

Carter Verhaeghe scored 28 seconds into the second period to cut it to 2-1. His initial one-timer was stopped by Woll's blocker, but the rebound popped back out to him and he scored with a slap shot from the right hash marks.

burieTOR@FLA: Verhaeghe snaps his own rebound back into the net

Bennett tied it 2-2 at 10:32, redirecting Gustav Forsling's shot from the left point.

Reinhart scored 10 seconds later to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead. He scored on a rebound in the left circle after Barkov drove to the net and tried to jam the puck past Woll.

“This is how you want to gear up for the playoffs,” Bennett said. “We had a setback, which should be expected, but we finished strong and finished the right way. We played hard and prepared ourselves the right way. We’re going in in a good spot."

Brandon Montour made it 4-2 at 13:42 of the second with a slap shot from the point through traffic.

“It wasn’t a very good second period," Tavares said. “We spent a long time in the box (three penalties), they got on the board, got some momentum and got their game going."

Reinhart scored his 57th goal of the season into an empty net at 17:40 for the 5-2 final.

“You want to finish as high as you can to get home ice," Stolarz said. “You could see the difference in the second period. That’s the loudest I have heard this building. ... It was super special. This was probably the most important game I have played in my career. It was business as usual. Everyone played super hard.”

NOTES: The Panthers won their division for the fourth time in their history. They also won the Atlantic Division in 2021-22 and 2015-16, and the Southeast Division in 2011-12. ... Reinhart's 57 goals are the third-most in a season in Panthers history. Pavel Bure scored 59 goals in 2000-01, and 58 in 1999-00.

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