"I couldn't have asked for better," said Huberdeau, who leads the team with 61 points (18 goals, 43 assists) and will be heading to his first NHL All-Star Game later this month. "Overall, the team played really good. It was a big win. We knew we needed it tonight. Obviously, on top of that, to be first in franchise history [for points] is cool. I'm going to try and enjoy that tonight."
After head coach Joel Quenneville had labeled tonight's contest the "the biggest game of the season," the Panthers came out and treated it just as such. Hitting the ground running in the first period, Josh Brown and Barkov scored at 1:49 and 3:47, respectively, to put the team up 2-0.
At 13:39, Mike Hoffman netted his first of two goals on the night when he wired home a blazing wrist shot on a 2-on-1 rush to pad the lead even further to 3-0 heading into the first intermission.
Then, just as they did in the opening frame, the Panthers kicked off the second period with two goals in rapid succession. At the 49-second mark, Mike Matheson increased the advantage to 4-0, chasing Frederick Andersen from the game in the process. Less than two minutes later, Frank Vatrano welcomed Michael Hutchinson with a shorthanded goal that made it 5-0 at 2:25.
At 3:30, Zach Hyman finally got the Maple Leafs on the board when he beat Chris Driedger from the side of the net to make it 5-1. But, not long after that, Vincent Trocheck got it right back for the Panthers when he picked a corner on an odd-man rush to increase the lead to 6-1 at 5:46.
Driedger finished with 43 saves; Hutchinson and Anderson stopped a combined 21 of 29 shots.
"I think these last few games we've gotten off to great starts," Trocheck said. "Any time you can kind of get the momentum and the confidence on your side early, it's going to go a long way."
Just past the midway point of the period, Huberdeau took a pass from Barkov and slid it past Hutchinson to send the Panthers ahead 7-1 and tie Jokinen's record with career point No. 419.
Video: TOR@FLA: Huberdeau scores to tie team record
After that, Mitch Marner and John Tavares lit the lamp at 13:00 and 15:26, respectively, to trim Florida's lead down to 7-3 heading into the final frame. Then, 34 seconds into the third, Marner kept Toronto's comeback hopes alive when he netted his second goal of the night to make 7-4.
Those hopes, however, were quickly dashed by Hoffman and Huberdeau.
With the Panthers threatening on the power play, Huberdeau sent a no-look pass to Hoffman - a move we've seen time and time again throughout his career - who then blasted a screaming one-timer past Hutchinson at 4:33 to make it 8-4 and hand Huberdeau his historic 420th point.
"We were obviously pretty excited afterwards," Hoffman said. "It's a great accomplishment. He's a great player. I saw Huby (Huberdeau) when he was 16 years old in junior, and you could tell right from then that he was going to be a special player. He's worked hard and blossomed into one of the best in the league."
Video: TOR@FLA: Huberdeau becomes Panthers points leader
Following tonight's win, the Panthers (24-16-5) now trail the Maple Leafs (24-16-6) by one point for third place in the Atlantic Division with one game in hand. They've also moved back into a playoff spot, overtaking Philadelphia Flyers (23-16-6) for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Overall, Florida has won nine of its last 13 contests.
"I see more balance in our game, more compete," Quenneville said of the team's recent stretch of games. "We have four lines, everybody's going. We seem to consistently roll four lines… Everybody's contributing and there's a lot of enthusiasm on the bench as well as on the ice."
Here are five takeaways from Sunday's win in Sunrise…
1. STARTING THE PARTY
The Panthers wasted no time in starting the scoring party tonight.
Receiving the puck at the point, Brett Connolly glided down the left side of the zone, patiently holding onto the puck before passing it to Brown, who immediately one-timed a shot from the slot past Anderson's glove and into the net to put Florida ahead 1-0 at 1:49 of the first period.
Video: TOR@FLA: Brown buries one-timer past Andersen
"We get free range from Q (Quenneville) to do it," Brown told FOX Sports Florida's Jessica Blaylock when asked about jumping up into the play. "I've just been trying to help put the team in another aspect of the game. It's been working out so far, so I'm going to stick with it."
Adding a little more offense to his impressive defensive skillset, Brown has already reached new career-highs in goals (3), points (5) and shots on goals (39) this season. Additionally, the 6-foot-5, 217-pound blueliner has also posted 56 hits and 44 blocks to supplement his offensive totals.
2. BARKOV FROM IN FRONT
Surrounded by a sea of Maple Leafs skaters, Barkov still managed to pot this one.
After some nice work along the boards, Pysyk connected with Barkov on a pass from behind the net and, despite being surrounded by three defenders, the Panthers captained still managed to tap the puck in from just outside the crease to extend the lead to 2-0 at 3:47 of the first period.
Video: TOR@FLA: Barkov puts home feed from Pysyk
Notching a goal and two assists tonight, Barkov earned his 17th multi-point game of the season - just one fewer than Huberdeau's team-high 18. Ranking second on Florida with 49 points (14 goals, 35 assists), the 24-year-old center has four goals and nine assists in his last 13 games.
After the game, however, Barkov was far more interested in Huberdeau's record than his own numbers.
"He's been really good this season," he said. "We're looking forward to keeping it going."
3. HOFFMAN STAYS HOT
If you're experiencing some déjà vu, it's because Hoffman has been doing this a lot lately.
After Vatrano lifted the puck into the neutral zone, Dominic Toninato carried it across the blue line before sending it to Hoffman. Skating in on a 2-on-1 break, the lethal sniper opted to take the shot himself, burying a top-shelf sizzler to push the lead to 3-0 at 13:39 of the first period.
Video: TOR@FLA: Hoffman wires wrist shot from the circle
Not done there, Hoffman's second goal of the night helped Huberdeau make history.
With the Panthers on the power play, Huberdeau took a pass from Evgenii Dadonov before sending a no-look dish to Hoffman, who rocketed home a one-timer to extend the lead to 8-4 and also give Huberdeau his franchise-record 420th career point at 4:33 of the third period.
Lighting the lamp in each of his last four games, Hoffman also extended his point streak to six games tonight. In that span, the 30-year-old winger has notched five goals and three assists. In 45 games this season, he sits second on the Panthers in goals (T-18) and fourth in points (35).
"As the season goes, it kind of happens for players," Hoffman said streaks. "When it's going the right way, you've just got to try and do the same things. When opportunities come, you've just got to try and capitalize on those chances that you get."
4. DOUBLE TROUBLE
Just like it was in the first period, the Panthers came out firing in the second.
Forty-nine seconds into the middle frame, Matheson blasted a slap shot from the point that flew through traffic and into the back of the cage to increase Florida's advantage to a commanding 4-0.
Video: TOR@FLA: Matheson wires slap shot through traffic
Heating up on offense, the 25-year-old defenseman has notched six points (three goals, three assists) over his last eight outings. Through 39 games this season, he's racked up 11 points (five goals, six assists), 34 hits and 37 blocks while averaging 19:31 of ice time per contest.
Then, less than two minutes later, the red light went off again.
With the Panthers on the penalty kill, Barkov forced a turnover in the neutral zone that turned into a rush up the ice. With two defenders chasing him down, Barkov then slid a pass right onto the stick of Vatrano, who scored from the slot to extend the lead to an eye-popping 5-0 at 2:25.
Video: TOR@FLA: Vatrano buries SHG from the low slot
His team-leading second shorthanded goal of the season, Vatrano has been finding the back of the net quite a bit recently. Over his last six games, the 25-year-old winger has scored three goals, while also chipping in two assists. In 45 games this season, he has 10 goals and 10 assists.
5. TROCHECK KEEPS ROLLING
Don't look now, but Trocheck is starting to catch fire.
Flying up the ice and into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Connolly on his left, Trocheck looked off the defender before unleashing a blistering top-shelf snipe straight over Hutchinson's glove and into the twine to put Florida ahead 6-1 at 5:46 of the second period.
Video: TOR@FLA: Trocheck snipes a wrist shot past Hutchinson
"I feel good," Trocheck said. "The team's playing really well and I feel like I'm able to contribute to the energy of this team. I think as long as we continue to play right now as a full team for a full 60 minutes, I think we're going to go a long way."
Finishing the night with three points (one goal, two assists), Trocheck has certainly seen quite the uptick in production over the past month. Over his last 14 games, the 26-year-old center has been playing at nearly a point-per-game pace, registering two goals and 11 assists in that span.
In 38 games this season, Trocheck has tallied 27 points (six goals, 21 assists).
BONUS: BOYLE'S MILESTONE
By taking the ice tonight, Brian Boyle skated in his 800th game of his NHL career.