Panthers Snap Seven-Game Losing Streak vs. the Maple Leafs
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Friday, January 18, 2019
Florida (3) Toronto (1) Final
The Toronto Maple Leafs travelled to Florida for a date with the Panthers on Friday in the second game of a back-to-back situation. Garret Sparks started in his 11th game of the season but came up short to decrease his season record to 6-3-0, leaving the team dejected after a significant victory over Tampa Bay one night prior. It took Roberto Luongo just 20 saves to earn the victory as Florida dominated with a 54.5 CF% when it was all said and done.
A seven-game losing streak held in the balance as the Panthers battled to return their team to relevance in Vincent Trocheck's return from injury. The 25-year-old made his highly-anticipated return to the lineup after a 27-game absence and recorded a primary assist on the game's winning goal in the first period. It proved to be Flordia's first win of 2019 and their first in eight games.
Although the Maple Leafs were able to capitalize just 1:49 into the game with an uncharacteristic blast from Ron Hainsey, Florida stormed back later in the frame and disrupted Toronto’s momentum. Hainsey's seeing-eye shot from the point found its way through traffic but it wasn't long before the Panthers found their way onto the scoresheet to discount the visitor's early surge.
Florida responded later in the frame and knotted the score at one-apiece courtesy of Mike Hoffman’s 23rd goal of the season. Jake Gardiner saw possession change hands after losing the puck deep in Toronto territory and allowed Florida to ambush their opposition. As a result, Keith Yandle was afforded a clear point shot which was tipped past Garret Sparks by Hoffman's slick tip-in.
The Panthers won 8 games in their first 18 with Vincent Trocheck in the lineup — but managed just 9 wins in their last 27 without him in their fixture. His impact was immensely felt in his return.
Mike Matheson recorded his 3rd goal of the season to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead later in the opening period, with the primary assist drawing from none other than Vincent Trocheck. This turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Toronto failed to produce another goal as the game continued and succumbed to the pressure of their second game in as many nights, and allowed Flordia to walk away with a 3-1 victory after Frank Vatrano tallied his 14th goal of the season to propel the Panthers to a 3-1 victory against their Atlantic Division rival.
The Maple Leafs will close out their three-game road trip versus the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday in hopes of maintaining their position amongst opponents with playoff aspirations. The parody within the league is increasingly levelled and could prove to be a big story down the stretch amongst teams on the bubble.