For the first time in a while the flight home from Florida was a positive one. The Maple Leafs ended their mini Florida road trip with a 5-3 win over the Panthers. The win now gives  the Leafs a four point cushion over the Panthers for 3rd in the Atlantic.

Rough Start for Andersen 

The final result is great for the Leafs but the start was not pretty. Once again the Leafs fell behind early, as the Panthers scored just two minutes into the game. The Leafs however did respond, as Hyman scored his 20th of the season only a minute later. As Mick Jagger would say, “old habits die hard” the Panthers were able to score two more goals shortly after.

The third goal left many thinking what is wrong with Andersen. Panthers forward Noel Accardi scored off a weak shot from the wing. What should have been a routine save turned into a horrible goal against. Keefe however showed belief in Andersen by leaving him in the game. This turned out to be a great choice as Andersen shut the door the rest of the way.

The Marlies Hold Down The Fort

With the injury to Muzzin sidelining him for a month, the Leafs defence is looking depleted again. Keefe opted to dress seven defensemen which turned out really well. Despite the rough start to the game, the young core was able to hold their own. After the Panthers scored three goals on six shots, the Leafs were able to hold them to only 21 shots total the rest of the game. In the second period especially, they held them to only four shots on net.

Even with all the inexperience, the defence showed great chemistry. Six of the seven were teammates on the Marlies at one point. Dermott Holl Marincin Liljegren and Rosen were all on Keefe’s Marlies team that won the Calder Cup in 2018. This setup with the defence might be easier for Keefe to work with.

Comeback Season 

Despite going down by two goals early, the Leafs responded amazingly. Unlike in the past, they didn’t fall back and give up. The last time they were in Florida, that is exactly what happened and it was the start of long streak of bad games. Tonight they proved they do want to win. Kapanen for the second time in a week sparked the Leafs with a fight. This led to them scoring twice in the final three minutes of the first period to tie the game.

It continued into the second as they outshot the Panthers 14-4. An amazing effort from Panthers goalie Bobrovsky, kept the game tied. Nylander would score the go-ahead goal in the third for his 29th of the season. That is his seventh game-wining goal this season and in the 40 games with Keefe as coach, it was his 20th goal. Only Pastrnak of Boston has more in that span with 22. Nylander finished as the first star while Matthews was the second star after a two point night where he scored his 44th goal of the season.

The Maple Leafs will return home for a game with the Canucks on Saturday.