MAPLE LEAFS 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)
TORONTO – The Panthers have already made the turn and are playing the back nine of the 2010-11 season, their playoff hopes fading as the sun sets on the course, time definitely not on their side.
Florida went into the All-Star break with just one win in its final five games, although precious points were picked up in three of those losses.
With that in mind, Tuesday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Maple Leafs doesn't hurt so much. And thanks to losses by Carolina and Atlanta, the Panthers even picked up a little ground.
“We're racing down the stretch and this really is playoff hockey right now. I've already started my playoff beard,'' defenseman Mike Weaver joked. “We just need to come together and grow as a team. We have to forget this and move on. We have to be at our best on every shift from here on out.''
Coach Pete DeBoer wasn't happy to just get a point against the slumping Maple Leafs as the Panthers lost a nice opportunity to pick up some good ground in the race for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Not as importantly, however, was the Leafs pulling to within five points of the Panthers.
The Panthers never held a lead in Tuesday's game with the Leafs taking a 1-0 lead and matching all but Florida's final goal after that.
Florida trailed 3-2 going into the third period and a comeback win would have been extremely rare although a deflection goal by Cory Stillman off a power play at least helped the Panthers salvage a point.
The Leafs may not be very good, but they are strong at holding onto third period leads. Florida is, well, not so good at coming from behind. The Panthers have won just one of 15 games in which they trailed going into the third. The Leafs improved to 15-0-2 when holding lead going into the final session.
“We looked like we were still on the All-Star break during the first but we got better as the game went on,'' DeBoer said. “We had opportunities to win the game. You're never happy to just get one point, but it was probably the fair outcome.''
The Panthers got a good showing from their last-place power play, scoring two of their three goals when holding the advantage. Toronto's leaky penalty kill surely helped, but so did nice shots from David Booth and Stillman. Booth followed up a rebound off a Michael Frolik shot to tie the score at 2 in the second period before Toronto tied it 1:22 later. Stillman deflected a Dmitry Kulikov shot to tie the score at 3 with 3:41 left in regulation.
Florida had plenty of chances to win the game but goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere was hard to handle. He stopped the Panthers on numerous chances in the third period and stoned the Panthers in overtime.
The Panthers had a 1-0 lead in the shootout after a nifty spin-a-rama move by Booth – one he tried out on Tomas Vokoun during Tuesday's practice – but the Panthers were stopped on their final two shots of the session and the Leafs pulled out the win. Toronto had lost six of seven coming in.
Like a good number of Florida players, center Scott Timmins grew up watching and cheering on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He never thought he would need to ask the Panthers to get him five tickets so family members could attend Tuesday's game, but since he was making his NHL debut against his childhood team, he needed to do just that.
Timmins, 21, was called up from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., on Monday night so to center the Panthers fourth line. The Panthers needed a center with Shawn Matthias out for the next two months with a broken ankle.
“I did not expect this at all. It's just amazing to be here,'' said Timmins, a sixth-round pick in 2009 who has 10 goals and 31 points in his first professional season. “Every Saturday night, I was watching the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. This is really exciting. I think I've had a pretty solid season in Rochester and this is a little reward. If I get into a game or two, I have to make the most of it.''
DeBoer knows Timmins pretty well, having coached him in the Canadian juniors for two seasons from 2006-08. DeBoer, the coach and general manager of the Kitchener Rangers at the time, said Timmins has good speed and is a very smart hockey player.
“I'm real familiar with him,'' DeBoer said. “He's capable of transitioning here. We need a center. We don't even have a lot of wingers who are comfortable playing there.''
The Panthers had used Michael Frolik at center of the fourth line on Monday but since Frolik hadn't played the position since his days in junior hockey, Florida decided to bring up Timmins.
-- DeBoer said that starting Clemmensen on Tuesday was planned before the All-Star break because the coaching staff didn't want Tomas Vokoun starting on back-to-back nights after having time off. Vokoun is scheduled to start Wednesday in Montreal and should also start Friday in New Jersey.
-- The Panthers officially announced it will hold a special Saturday afternoon practice at Glacier's Ice Arena in Lighthouse Point. The team practiced at the facility during its early years when the rink was named Gold Coast. Festivities at Glacier's begin at 2 p.m. with the Panthers taking the ice at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
WEDNESDAY: PANTHERS AT CANADIENS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; Bell Center, Montreal
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: Panthers lead 30-29-6
The game: This is the third meeting between the two teams this season with both teams winning away from home. The Panthers have picked up three of the available four points against Montreal. The Canadiens had lost three of four heading into Tuesday's game at Washington. Former Panthers coach and general manager Jacques Martin has won four of six against Florida since becoming Montreal's bench boss last season.
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Florida Panthers to Escape Snowy Toronto, Only do so with a Point ... Leafs win 4-3 in Shootout ... Booth Spins to Win, Comes up Short
MAPLE LEAFS 4, PANTHERS 3 (SO)