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article imageStreaking Florida Panthers too hot for Maple Leafs on home ice Special

By Dave Pitman     Dec 18, 2013 in Sports
Toronto - The Toronto Maple Leafs played Host to the Florida Panthers Tuesday night, putting forth a dismal performance in a 3-1 loss.
The Leafs returned home Monday night after dropping a game to the Pittsburgh Penguins, resulting in the same score; 3-1. It was a hard fought game, one that could have gone either way before Sidney Crosby notched the game-winning goal in the third period in a thrilling Monday night match up.
The game on Tuesday, however, would not be as thrilling. James Reimer would get the start for the Leafs, Scott Clemmensen for the Panthers. Florida were winners of three in a row coming into tonights matchup. Clemmensen played three games for Toronto in the 2006-2007 season with a record of 1-1-0 and a subpar 3.90 Goals Against Average. David Clarkson returned from suspension, looking for his 100th career goal. He still sits at 99 following this game.
Toronto jumped out to a quick start following puck drop, but that would not last very long. The Florida Panthers would begin to execute their game plan early on, throwing pucks off the boards and chasing it into the zone. Tomas Fleischmann would take advantage of the poor play in the Leafs end and notch the first goal of the game past James Reimer. The Maple Leafs simply did not have any answers for Florida, giving the puck away whenever they seemed to get ahold of it.
The second period wasn’t much better for the Maple Leafs. A bizarre play behind the net drew a penalty on James Reimer for holding as a Panther skater passed by. Florida would grasp momentum on the power play and continue to execute their plan in the period. Sean Bergenheim would take advantage of a Leafs turnover to score his fourth of the season to put the Panthers up 2-0. Dion Phaneuf would be responsible for another Leafs give away later in the period and former Leaf Brad Boyes scored to put the Panthers in a comfortable 3-0 lead. Joffrey Lupul would see only 7:43 of playing time through two periods in a puzzling move by coach Randy Carlyle. Jake Gardiner, after logging signifcant minutes of playing time in his last few games, was benched in the second half of the period. Trevor Smith took a puck off the hand and did not return.
Starting the third period on the Power Play, the Maple Leafs failed to get any sort of offense going. They narrowly avoided giving up a shorthanded goal to Shawn Matthias that would have made it 4-0, and the crowd at the ACC were getting restless. They would see some action, however, when Peter Holland who was skating with Joffrey Lupul and Mason Raymond, made a nice move around the Panthers players and threw a shot on net that would be tipped in by Raymond to make it 3-1. But that would be the closest the Maple Leafs would come in this one.
Toronto outshot Florida 29-23 in the game, which is a puzzling number to analyze post game. The Panthers dominated the tempo Tuesday night, never leaving any doubt of the outcome. Coach Carlyle was less than impressed.
“We were guilty of trying to be too cute…” said Carlyle to reporters in his post game press conference, referring the to the teams lack of execution of the game plan. Carlyle emphasizes getting pucks to the net and driving the center lane, something the coach noted that his team did not do, “…We tried to play shinny against an NHL hockey club.”
James Reimer looked defeated when media approached him post game. When asked if there was any particular reason for the poor performance, he paused before answering.
“There’s never an excuse. Injuries, tired, it’s all BS. Those are excuses and they’re useless.", Reimer told reporters.
Captain Dion Phaneuf felt he was to blame for the loss. “I’ve got to be better…”, Phaneuf said, staring blankly, “...I made some mistakes tonight that are unacceptable."
“We simply got embarrassed”, said Mason Raymond.
Things went from bad to worse for the Maple Leafs when Trevor Smith took a shot off the hand, breaking a bone and rendering him unable to play in the near future. With injuries to Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland already plaguing the Leafs centre position, things just got a little more complicated down the middle.
The Maple Leafs loss marks their fifth in their last six games played. Having just come off a stretch of games vs. some of the NHL’s top teams, tonight’s game was thought to be a must win game against a weaker team. The Leafs will look to bounce back Wednesday against another tough West coast team when they host the Phoenix Coyotes.
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