Panthers continue postseason push vs. Maple Leafs
The Florida Panthers will try to aid their postseason push with a third straight victory when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs for tonight's encounter at Air Canada Centre.
Florida is leading the Southeast Division with 70 points, leaving the Panthers two points in front of Winnipeg and three ahead of Washington.
The Panthers have won two straight on the heels of a four-game slide and can match their longest winning streak of the season tonight. Florida last won three in a row from Feb. 9-12.
Toronto, meanwhile, has lost four straight and eight of its last nine games coming into tonight. The 1-7-1 stretch has hurt the Maple Leafs playoff chances, but Toronto is still just three points behind Winnipeg for the East's eighth and final postseason berth.
The Panthers posted a 4-2 win against visiting Montreal on Sunday. Stephen Weiss scored twice, including the go-ahead goal in the second period, and also added an assist for Florida.
"It's just a matter of the puck laying there for you to be able to tap it in. It's nice to get a couple bounces," Weiss said of his goals, which both came off rebounds.
Sean Bergenheim also tallied and added two helpers for the Panthers, who haven't made the playoffs since 2000. Scott Clemmensen stopped 18-of-20 shots in the win.
Kris Versteeg, who leads Florida with 49 points this year, is questionable for tonight after leaving Sunday's game with an undisclosed injury. Fellow forward Marcel Goc is expected to miss a fourth straight game tonight with a lower- body injury.
Florida is 14-12-4 on the road this year and is beginning a brief two-game trip tonight. The Panthers will also visit Winnipeg on Thursday in a key battle for first place in the Southeast.
The Maple Leafs are 0-2-1 on a four-game homestand that is set to end tonight. Toronto's most recent setback came Saturday against the Washington Capitals, who scored the game's first four goals and cruised to the 4-2 victory at Air Canada Centre.
Colby Armstrong and Tim Connolly scored for the Maple Leafs, who have fallen to 16-11-5 as the host this season. James Reimer stopped 32-of-36 shots in the loss.
"We're not playing with enough urgency right off the bat, especially in our building," Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf said. "There is no reason for it and there is no excuse for it."
After tonight's tilt, Toronto will play its next two tests on the road in Chicago and Montreal.
Florida is 2-0 against the Leafs this season and has outscored Toronto by a combined 10-4 margin in those meetings. The Panthers have taken three straight, four of five and six of the last eight tilts in this series. Florida had lost two in a row in Toronto before posting a 5-1 win at the ACC on Nov. 8.