Panthers Need Another Comeback in 7-6 OT Victory Over Maple Leafs

On Tuesday, the Cardiac Cats struck again as the Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-6 in overtime after trailing 5-1 midway through the second period. The victory helped set a new record for most points in franchise history with 104 points in 70 games and pads their lead in the Atlantic Division by eight points and the Eastern Conference by six points.

Huberdeau Makes History as Offense Continues to Fire on All Cylinders

The Panthers’ offense once again showed why no lead against them is safe. This is the second time in their last three games that they’ve scored seven goals in a winning effort. The goal-scoring was led by Jonathan Huberdeau, who tallied five points (two goals, three assists), including the game-tying and game-winning goals. He is also on a nine-game point streak with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists). As a result of his heroics, he became the first player in Panthers history to record a 100-point season, and he has shown no signs of slowing down for the rest of the season.

“I think he’s been unbelievable. He’s been leading this team the whole season. No nights off at all. He’s just solid every time he shows up and does his thing. It’s incredible how good he is and how he does those things. It’s a lot of fun to see.”

– Aleksander Barkov on Jonathan Huberdeau

Aleksander Barkov also had one of his best performances this season with a four-point night (one goal, three assists), including an assist on the game-winner. This padded his team lead in goals with 34; he is the only 30-goal scorer on the team so far this season.

Furthermore, Sam Bennett assisted on a big goal late in the second period for his 100th career NHL assist. While Bennett has been quiet on the scoresheet of late, he’s playing a hard game and drives to the front on almost every play. It was nice to see him rewarded for his efforts.

Reinhart Helps Power Play Look Good, But Not Deep Playoff Run Good

Against the Maple Leafs, the Panthers went 3/6 on the man advantage. Forward Sam Reinhart has made the Buffalo Sabres regret trading him as he had another fantastic night with two power-play goals and assisted on another. The power play has been excellent for Florida, with four goals in their last two games.

Sam Reinhart Florida Panthers
Sam Reinhart, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, the power play has also struggled, allowing two shorthanded goals in their last three games, including one by Mitch Marner in the second period. They’ve shown they can get it moving, but it needs to be more consistent.

Giroux Gets His First and Continued His Dominance in South Florida

At 17:56 of the second period, newly acquired forward Claude Giroux finally scored his first goal as a Panther, giving him nine points (a goal and eight assists) through his first eight games with the team. He has made a huge impact with a 56% faceoff success rate. Against Toronto, he had a 50% win rate to help the team to a 51.2% success rate.

Related: Historic Season Continues for Playoff-Bound Panthers

He’s made the best of his time in South Florida so far, and it’s only going to get better as the postseason approaches.

Panthers’ Defense is Broken

While the offense can keep the Panthers afloat, the defense has struggled since Aaron Ekblad went down with an injury. On Tuesday, they gave up six goals on 35 shots. This is their third game in a row in which they’ve given up three or more goals and the second in four nights in which they’ve given up six.

Surprisingly, only one Panthers defenseman finished with a minus rating: Brandon Montour was a minus-1.

Penalty Kill Has Been Faulty

The penalty kill struggled mightily against the Maple Leafs’ top power-play unit, allowing three goals on seven chances, including a game-tying goal by John Tavares. He has continued to haunt the Panthers since he was the New York Islanders’ captain in the 2016 Playoffs. In their last three games, the Panthers have allowed five power-play goals on 12 chances.

While some of the calls were controversial, the Panthers’ inability to stay out of the box nearly cost them two points.

Bobrovsky Struggles Again

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky once again had a bad night and was pulled in his second straight start after giving up four goals on 14 shots. In his last two outings, he’s given up a combined 10 goals, despite that he was named Third Star of the Month in March after going 7-0-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average (GAA) and a save percentage (SV%) of .924. He has 33 wins, two shutouts, 2.71 GAA, and a .911 SV% through 46 starts this season.

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The defense has been doing him no favors, but if the Panthers want to rely on him in the playoffs, he needs to start playing up to his contract, or that will be another $10 million down the toilet for the organization.

The “Knight” in Shining Armor

Spencer Knight played lights out in relief midway through the second and helped mount Florida’s comeback. He stopped 19 of 21 shots and finished with a .905 SV%, including a big save in overtime to keep the Panthers in it.

Spencer Knight Florida Panthers
Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

Knight has been easily one of the best prospects to develop over the past two seasons. He may get the nod for the playoffs next month if he keeps up his electric play.

Panthers Rally Again, But it Isn’t Sustainable

The comeback wins are entertaining during the regular season, but it’s not a viable plan come playoff time. The Panthers’ offense gives them enough juice to keep up with bigger teams in the conference, but their defense and goaltending could see them get bounced in the first round again.

Even in their last game, Florida has shown they can hang with the best during the regular season, but none of it matters if they can’t do it in the postseason. If they work on their flaws throughout the rest of the month, the team will be set for their journey to the Cup.