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TORONTO – Nick Bjugstad scored the go-ahead goal on a power play early in the second period and the Florida Panthers defeated the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Tuesday night.
Jussi Jokinen and 2008 Maple Leafs draft pick Jimmy Hayes also scored for the Panthers, who moved within two points of idle Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Roberto Luongo made 27 saves, his latest solid performance in a strong season.
Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel scored for the Maple Leafs (23-30-5), who are 26th overall in the NHL standings. Kessel's goal, which cut it to 3-2, came on a power play with 50 seconds left and Jonathan Bernier (14 saves) out of his net.
With less than two weeks until the March 2 trade deadline, the Maple Leafs are under the microscope as their rebuild goes into full swing. A large contingent from the Montreal Canadiens' front office was in attendance at Air Canada Centre to survey potential trade candidates.
Recent trade acquisition Olli Jokinen was making his Toronto debut and on display with three other pending unrestricted free agents: defenseman Korbinian Holzer and forwards Daniel Winnik and David Booth. Olli Jokinen didn't have a point but got to play at his natural center position on the third line.
Toronto already sent defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Santorelli to Nashville on Sunday for Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsic and a first-round pick.
The first deal probably won't be the last, and Toronto has a handful of players who could draw interest beyond those with expiring contracts, including Bozak. So it makes plenty of sense that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and a handful of other executives were watching closely.
The Maple Leafs didn't put up much of a fight against an opponent still in the playoff race. They were undisciplined, especially in the second period, and allowed two power-play goals.
NOTES: Toronto forward David Clarkson left late after taking a slash to the back of his right leg from former teammate Dave Bolland. ... A pregame moment of silence was held for former NHL defenseman Steve Montador, who died Sunday at age 35. ... Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim, the subject of trade speculation, was a healthy scratch for the third straight game.