SUNRISE, Fla. – If the Toronto Maple Leafs ever bless their fans with a snowbird series in Florida, the games will be up for grabs and the entertainment value should be off the charts.
Do you enjoy goals? Ten-clock save?
What about hits? Superstars? Broken records?
Wild shifts in momentum and surprising plot twists?
The Maple Leafs’ wild back-to-back in Sunshine State offered some high-stakes, high-octane, high-anxiety hockey.
Call it a potential playoff preview.
Call it a breakdown.
Call it a comeback.
Or just call it a fun night on the rink.
The only thing Toronto’s hectic 7-6 overtime loss to top seed Florida Panthers Tuesday did not yield was a dull moment.
Starting goalkeepers Sergei Bobrovsky and Erik Källgren were each excellent – and perfect in equal strength – in a back and forth first period that ended 1-1 due to powerplay goals by Sam Reinhart and William Nylander rising after illness. .
Period 2 was a completely different and untamed beast.
Mitch Marner whipped up his magic early on, scoring the Leafs’ league-leading 13th shorthanded goal that followed up with a power-play attack 37 later – the shortest span between a PK and PP goal ever. (Mario Lemieux had the previous record of 47 seconds, in 1989.)
By the time Colin Blackwell converted on a beautiful 5-on-5 rush sequence, the visitors had scored three goals on three shots on three strengths in 94 seconds on Bobrovsky.
Enter Spencer Knight.
A healthy Jake Muzzin snuck the next one and came on the board in his first appearance in more than six weeks.
In an instant, the Maple Leafs led 5-1 … against the team with the most comeback victories.
Of course, Florida scored the next four, including Claude Giroux’s first as the Panther; five points from Jonathan Huberdeau, giving him 102 on the year; and a brutal long shot from Radko Gudas that slid through Källgren.
Källgren left the chaos late in the second after taking a Robert Hagg shot of the lower part of his face mask and marking a cold Jack Campbell inside. (Källgren would return to the bench in the third.)
Aleksander Barkov apparently ended the madness midway through the third, and FLA Live exploded as the home team struck back 6-5.
But a John Tavares power-play goal brought it all back.
Then Huberdeau scored the OT dagger.
“This back-to-back in Florida, with the Tampa and Panthers, it’s been like a flashing light on the schedule all season,” Sheldon Keefe had said.
The shadow of that light?
Fox’s Fast 5
• The Maple Leafs lead the NHL with 13 minors.
• With a pair of powerplay markers, Sam Reinhart set career highs in goals (26) and points (68) on Tuesday. He is a plus player for the first time in his NHL career and is on his way to his first post-season – eight years after being drafted as second overall by Buffalo.
• The four Atlantic powers, head-to-head: Maple Leafs 5-1-1; Panthers 4-2-1; Bruins 3-3-1; Lyn 3-5-1.
• Keefe says that itching Ilya Lyubushkin to a difficult decision.
“We really have seven guys who can not just play every night, but play in any situation. That’s a big factor here,” the coach said in favor of internal competition.
“We love what Boosh has brought to us, so he’ll be back soon.”
• The Maple Leafs have met the Panthers twice now … and Joe Thornton has not played in any of the games. April 23rd, the last shot will be a rematch.