TORONTO (CBSMiami/SD) – The Florida Panthers managed to secure their second playoff berth since the 1999-2000 season without even stepping on the ice Sunday and look to maintain their slim hold atop the Atlantic Division when they open a three-game road trip at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Florida has won four of its last five, but the one blemish was a 5-2 home loss to Toronto on Tuesday.
The Panthers wrapped up a postseason slot when Boston lost at Chicago on Sunday and now will try to maintain their two-point edge over intrastate rival Tampa Bay with four games to play. Florida rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat visiting Montreal 4-3 on Saturday night for its franchise-record 44th victory.
“We were kind of lucky. It doesn’t happen very often you come back 3-0,” Panthers veteran forward Jaromir Jagr told reporters.
Last week’s loss to the Maple Leafs was only the second in the past nine meetings for Florida, which has won its last three trips to Toronto.
Florida’s top line of the 44-year-old Jagr and youngsters Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau continue to wreak havoc on opponents, combining for seven points in Saturday’s win. Barkov extended his points streak to five games with a pair of goals and two assists, Jagr boosted his team-high point total to 62 and Huberdeau has scored six times during a five-game goal streak. “They’re phenomenal,” Montreal coach Michel Therrien told the media. “They’ve got size, and they’re strong on the puck. They dominate the game. It’s pretty simple.”
After being held off the scoresheet for five consecutive teams, rookie William Nylander netted one goal and assisted on another in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Detroit to give him five tallies and four assists in 18 games. “He had a little bit of a dip in his play in the last few games maybe, but he’s always going to be dangerous,” forward P.A. Parenteau told TSN. “Every time he gets the puck he’s dangerous because he skates so well with it.” Nazem Kadri notched his third career hat trick in Toronto’s win at Florida on Tuesday.
1. The Panthers have permitted six goals in 16 short-handed situations over the last four games.
2. Kadri has seven goals and 16 points in 15 career games against Florida.
3. Panthers RW Reilly Smith is one shy of giving the Panthers four 25-goal scorers for the first time in franchise history.
PREDICTION: Panthers 4, Maple Leafs 3
By SportsDirect Inc.