Maple Leafs aim to bounce back against visiting Panthers
(Sports Network) - The Toronto Maple Leafs let a chance for two points slip away on Monday and will try to bounce back when they host the lowly Florida Panthers in Tuesday's battle at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs were shooting for a home-and-home sweep of the rival Bruins on Monday, but lost the finale in Boston, 3-2, in a shootout. Toronto had ended an eight-game series' losing streak against the Bruins with Saturday's regulation win at home.
Toronto also held a 2-0 lead in Tuesday's contest, but the Bruins cut the deficit to one by the end of the second period and Patrice Bergeron tied the game for Boston midway through the third. Bergeron also scored the game-winner in the second round of the shootout.
"I thought we limited their quality chances, but we gave up a few that cost us," Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf said.
Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin lit the lamp for the Maple Leafs. Lupul returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension for a hit last Wednesday against Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.
James Reimer stopped 27-of-29 shots in defeat for the Leafs, who are sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of New Jersey. Toronto is mired in the longest playoff drought in club history, having failed to make the postseason in seven straight seasons since 2004.
The Leafs are playing the first of two straight on home ice and will welcome Carolina on Thursday. Toronto is 8-6-2 at the ACC this season.
The Panthers, who are still last in the NHL with 24 points, have lost two straight, eight of 10 and 11 of their last 14 games.
Florida began its current five-game road trip with consecutive wins, but has since lost two straight in regulation to fall to 5-10-1 as the visiting team this season.
The Panthers found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 decision against the New York Islanders on Sunday. Andrew MacDonald scored the winner in the first period and Evgeni Nabokov stopped all 26 shots sent his way.
Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves in the setback for the Panthers, who made their first playoff appearance since 2000 last spring but are on their way to missing the postseason for the 11th time in 12 seasons.
"We need some opportunistic guys to step up and say that there's a heck of a lot of opportunity for them to produce right now and unfortunately it's not happening yet," said Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen.
After capping this swing, the Panthers will play two straight and four of their next five on home ice.
Toronto had lost five straight against the Panthers before notching a 3-0 win at Sunrise on Feb. 18. Florida has won two in a row and six of the last nine meetings in Toronto.
03/26 11:11:56 ET