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game recap

Panthers end losing streak, defeat Maple Leafs in Trocheck's return

Has assist on game-winning goal for Florida, which had lost past seven

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

Matheson buries one-timer

TOR@FLA: Matheson blasts one-timer past Sparks

Vincent Trocheck drops a pass to Mike Matheson, who fires a one-timer from the point past Garret Sparks to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead

  • 00:43 •

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Vincent Trocheck had an assist in his return to help the Florida Panthers end a seven-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at BB&T Center on Friday.

Trocheck, who missed 27 games because of a fractured right ankle sustained against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 19, assisted on defenseman Mike Matheson's goal at 14:59 of the first period that gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead. Trocheck had three shots on goal, a game-high seven hits and was plus-2 in 18:12 of ice time.

"It was awesome," Trocheck said. "Never felt better. Just thankful that I'm able to come back and play hockey again. It's been a long time coming. You never really realize how much you miss hockey until you're watching your teammates play and you're not able to."


[WATCH: All Maple Leafs vs. Panthers highlights]


Mike Hoffman and Frank Vatrano scored for the Panthers (18-20-8), and Roberto Luongo made 20 saves for his 480th NHL win.

Florida won for the first time since Dec. 31 to end its longest losing streak (0-5-2) since losing nine straight from Oct. 22-Nov. 10, 2013 (0-5-4).

"It was huge for our club, especially against a team like Toronto, which is one of the best in the league," Luongo said. "Starting with our last game in Montreal (5-1 loss in which the Panthers outshot the Canadiens 53-28), even though we didn't win, I thought we played the right way and we built off of that and had a 60-minute game tonight."

Video: TOR@FLA: Luongo robs Marleau with tough glove save

Ron Hainsey scored for the Maple Leafs (29-16-2), who lost for the sixth time in nine games (3-6-0). Toronto was playing the second game of a back-to-back after defeating the League-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 on Thursday.

"We kind of dig ourselves into a bit of a hole there early," Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews said. "You have to be ready every game. It doesn't matter who you are playing or what the turnaround is. There was no excuse … we have to be ready to play."

Garret Sparks made 26 saves in his first game since sustaining a concussion in practice Jan. 2.

"I felt good," he said. "I felt more like myself than I have all season. I felt composed, I felt strong. I felt quick. I'm not happy with the result, but I'm happy with how many saves I made. Obviously still work to be done. All you can do is make as many saves as you can and try to give your team a chance."

Toronto took a 1-0 lead at 1:49 of the first period when Hainsey scored on a one-timer from the point.

Hoffman made it 1-1 at 9:02 when he tipped Keith Yandle's shot from the point. It was Hoffman's 23rd goal, one more than he had last season in 82 games with the Senators.

Video: TOR@FLA: Hoffman redirects shot past Sparks

Trocheck set up Matheson for a one-timer from the high slot for the game-winning goal.

"I thought [Trocheck] was our best player the first period," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. "You could tell he was fresh, excited to play, he was in on the second goal. More importantly it puts everybody else back in their proper spots. Everything about having him back worked out better than I thought it would."

Vatrano scored an empty-net goal at 18:14 of the third period to make it 3-1.

"We played hard to get that third goal," Boughner said. "We did a good job in the 2-1 situation all night. It was nice to see Frankie lift that over and hit the net. We breathed a little sigh of relief."

Video: Clutch Performance: Trocheck records assist in return


They said it

"There's always highs and lows. We've been a pretty good team and we just have to keep getting better. The thing about the National Hockey League is that if you don't have your A game and they jump on you, you're not going to win. It's just that simple." -- Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock


"It felt like I played 40 (minutes). I haven't played in a little over two months; it's going to take a little bit of adjusting, but the adrenaline kind of took over." -- Panthers center Vincent Trocheck


Need to know

Matthews won 8 of 9 face-offs but failed to score for the sixth consecutive game and 11th time in 12 games. … Florida has won five in a row against Toronto at BB&T Center, including two games this season. …. Panthers defenseman Josh Brown played 10:54 in his NHL debut and had one blocked shot. ... Luongo is four wins behind Ed Belfour (484) for third all-time. ... Florida outshot Toronto 13-4 in the first period.


What's next

Maple Leafs: Host the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday (7 p.m. NHLN, SN, FS-A PLUS, NHL.TV)

Panthers: At the Nashville Predators on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-F, NHL.TV)

Video: Balanced attack helps Panthers hold off Leafs, 3-1

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