SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – Following the NHL’s holiday break, the Florida Panthers will look to resume the winning ways that the team has enjoyed during the first couple months of the season.READ MORE: South Florida Family Encourages Booster Shots After Vaccinated Relative Dies Of COVID-19
The Panthers managed to recover from a late blown lead against the Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins to secure a season-high home win streak before the Christmas break.
The Panthers will try to add to that and a six-game point streak on their own ice in their return Sunday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It looked like Florida’s streak at home might prove brief when Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final five minutes of regulation Monday. Instead, the Panthers (15-9-8) came away with a 4-3 victory after a seven-round shootout, with Roberto Luongo stopping every Penguins attempt and Aleksander Barkov netting the lone goal in the extra session.
“There’s confidence in the room now,” said forward Jimmy Hayes, who had a pair of goals. “We’ve proved that we’re a good team. We’re right on that playoff pile so we’ve got to continue to get points and keep winning.”
Florida, 4-1-1 in its last six overall and 10th in the East, now seeks its first four-game home win streak since a franchise record-tying five-game run March 4-17, 2012. The Panthers are 5-0-1 in their last six home games and will face a Toronto team that avoided a season-high fourth consecutive lossbefore the break.
The Maple Leafs (20-12-3) beat Dallas 4-0 on Tuesday after giving up a combined 15 goals in its prior three games.
Jonathan Bernier stopped 43 shots – his most saves in any of his nine career shutouts – and assisted on James vanRiemsdyk’s second-period goal. Van Riemsdyk had three points in the Maple Leafs’ second of a season-high seven consecutive road games.READ MORE: 'Unacceptable,' South Florida Haitian Leaders Outraged Over What Happened In Del Rio, Texas
“Losing streaks, you don’t want them to linger and that one was lingering long enough for us,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “It was the best Christmas present we could have given ourselves.”
The Maple Leafs, currently in the first wild-card spot and fourth in the Atlantic Division, earned a season-best six consecutive wins before their recent skid and had won 10 of 12 but played just two road contests. They’ll play only four home games between now and Feb. 7.
“It’s going to get tougher. It’s not going to get easier. We know that,” Carlyle said.
The Panthers won three of four over Toronto last season, including both home games, after enduring a three-game sweep in 2012-13. Their 14 goals against the Maple Leafs were their most versus any opponent last season.
Nick Bjugstad scored a team-best three times in last season series, and Sean Bergenheim paced the Panthers with five points (two goals, three assists). Bergenheim has five goals and four assists in his last seven matchups with Toronto and a team-best five points (one goal, four assists) in the last six games.
Bjugstad, meanwhile, has no points in a season high-tying five consecutive contests.
Toronto’s Tyler Bozak has three goals and three assists in his last six games against Florida, but could face Luongo, who is 10-1-0 with a 2.02 goals-against average in his past 12 matchups with the Maple Leafs.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Death Toll Tops 53,000 In Florida
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