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Panthers maul Leafs, end three-game slide

(Reuters) - The Florida Panthers mauled the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-1 on Tuesday to put an end to a string of frustrating shootout defeats.

The Panthers had lost their last three in shootouts but put Tuesday's game out of reach by racing to a 4-0 lead on goals from Jack Skille, Marco Strum, Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim.

Goaltender Jose Theodore finished with 38 saves for the win, which came just two days after Florida squandered a 3-0 lead in a loss to Tampa Bay.

"The last game was a tough one but the good thing about this team is we have the character to forget about tough situations and just bounce back and that's what we did tonight," Theodore told reporters.

"We played the same way we started against Tampa but we played for 60 minutes."

The Northeast Division-leading Maple Leafs (9-5-1) were coming off their worst loss of the season, a 7-0 beating by Boston on Saturday, and quickly found themselves on the wrong end of another lopsided affair.

Skille scored in the first period, Sturm and Kopecky netted in the second and Bergenheim added a third-period score to put visiting Florida (7-4-3) out in front.

Phil Kessel got Toronto on the board with his NHL-leading 11th goal of the season at 3:30 in the final period, but Shawn Matthias restored the Panthers' four-goal advantage with 3:25 left in the game.

Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson was replaced by Ben Scrivens in the second period after allowing three goals as Toronto's problems in net continued.

Starting netminder James Reimer has been out for more than two weeks after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a collision.

"We've got to shore up our goaltending obviously and play the way we did tonight and more often than not the puck will go in the net," said Toronto coach Ron Wilson.

"You're going to win games that you shouldn't and tonight we probably lost a game that we shouldn't have."

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford)