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WELCOME TO FORT LAUDERDALE: Panthers Dominate Leafs in 4-1 Rout (That Was Closer Than it Looked)

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Panthers captain Ed Jovanovski relayed a message through the media Tuesday morning: His team, he said, needs to played like they are ticked off.

Or something to that affect.

Florida certainly played with an intensity rarely seen in last week's embarrassing end to a road trip as it dominated play from start to finish of a 4-1 win over visiting Toronto on Tuesday night.

"It was collectively a great team effort, one of the better ones of our seasons,'' Jovanovski said afterward. "That's how we're effective. .-.-. That's how this team is made up. Everyone has to tug the same way. If not, it doesn't work.''

Said coach Peter Horachek: "I think it's good to have a leadership that believes that and pushes that message. You have to put things on the line every day.''

The Panthers coughed up a 2-0 lead in an eventual 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs last Thursday in Ontario but completely turned the tide in Sunrise.

Had it not been for the outstanding play of an overworked goalie -- Jonathan Bernier made 44 saves -- those blue-clad snowbird fans from the Great White North would have left the building much earlier.

Tuesday's win snapped a three-game slide, one in which the Panthers were outscored 16-6 and outplayed far too much. Toronto had won nine of its past 11 heading into sunny South Florida.

The Panthers came out with plenty of jump as it looked as if the Maple Leafs spent too much time Monday night enjoying Fort Lauderdale's flora and fauna at Elbo Room.

Florida kept the puck in the Toronto zone for most of the opening period as the Leafs didn't get their first shot on Tim Thomas until 7:19 in. The Panthers had already taken nine shots on Bernier.

"It was just tight enough to be a little nerve-wracking,'' Thomas said. "But we took it to them. That was the best game we played all year.''

All told, the Panthers outshot the Leafs 19-4 in the first period and went into the third holding a 37-12 edge.

Unfortunately for Florida, the Panthers only had a 1-0 lead heading into the final period as Tom Gilbert's long power play shot was the only one to get past Bernier.

That power play goal was just Florida's second in 53 tries with the extra skater.

Florida padded its lead in the third period to give itself a little breathing room when Brian Campbell threw up a long shot. Jesse Winchester had Bernier completely screened as the puck clipped him on the way past.

A few moments later it looked like Florida had broken things wide open when Erik Gudbranson was given a goal he shouldn't have. Gudbranson's shot never broke the line and a review from Hockey Central confirmed it.

The Leafs finally woke up from their hangover midway through the period and made it 2-1 when Tomas Kopecky turned over the puck with David Clarkson wristing a shot past Thomas.

Florida finally all but ended things with 6:38 left when Shawn Matthias -- who hails from the area near Toronto's Pearson Airport -- picked off the puck from Cody Franson and charged in on Bernier.

Matthias' goal came on Florida's 46th shot of the evening.

Marcel Goc added the Panthers' fourth goal of the night one shot later as he deposited the puck into an empty net after Bernier left with 2:30 remaining.

"It was a good 60 minutes for us,'' Campbell said. "When we skate well, we're a good team. We need the energy from the top every night.''



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Even with everyone "tugging the same way", this is still a .500 team, at best, IMO.

Until you get 1-2 more "finishers" on the top two scoring lines, and 2 more "impact" defensemen, this team...even firing on all cylinders...is still pedestrian.

Next year will be a BIG year in terms of "The Plan" set in motion by Tallon & Co. 4 years ago. Vinny will, allegedly, open up the wallet and allow Tallon to spend up to the cap, and a lot of dead weight contracts will be expiring, so I'll reserve judgement until then

Correct Mase. These guys struggle to finish. Even with them scoring 4 goals, they should have put in two more. That's why some of the players said it was closer than it looked. Some of these forwards consistently find ways to screw up golden scoring chances every night with jittery hands and fumbling bumbling skills in front of the net. They need proven scorers from other teams that are below the age of 30 for the most part. Stop acquiring these old guys. WE ARE NOT THE MARLINS!!!

Another thing, Mr. Viola. change the uniforms. They look very plain in design. Get something more sleek and modern. A kid could've drawn that design and picked out that color scheme. Spice it up next year. The first step to playing good is looking good.

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