March 29, 2018 / 2:43 AM / 8 months ago

Maple Leafs score three in first, hang on to top Panthers

EditorsNote: updates fourth graf to reflect late results

Auston Matthews scored his 30th goal of the season as the host Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Florida Panthers 4-3 on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Matthews is the third Toronto player to reach 30 goals this season, joining James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri. Van Riemsdyk, who also scored on Wednesday, leads the team with 35 goals.

Frederik Andersen stopped 30 shots to earn the win. Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau also scored for Toronto. Marner, who also had an assist, has at least one point in 10 consecutive games.

The Maple Leafs, who have all but secured a playoff spot as the third-place team in the Atlantic Division, improved to 27-9-2 at home. Toronto needs just one more point to seal a postseason berth.

Left winger Jonathan Huberdeau, who has a career-high 25 goals this season, scored twice for the Panthers. Evgenii Dadonov also got his career-high 25th goal, as his tally with 1:26 left in the third gave the Panthers a chance.

Goalie Roberto Luongo made 31 saves in a losing effort.

Florida, which trails the idle New Jersey Devils by three points for the last available wild-card playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, slipped to 16-18-4 on the road.

Toronto needed just 3:05 to open the scoring. Marner scored on a rebound of his initial shot, which caromed off the boards, as Toronto applied early pressure.

The Leafs made it 2-0 just six minutes later, scoring on the rush. William Nylander flew down the right wing before dropping the puck back to Matthews, who picked his spot for the goal.

With 6:05 left in the first, Marner won a puck battle in the left corner and skated around until he hit Marleau with a perfect pass on the doorstep for a 3-0 Toronto lead.

Florida got on the board with 2:11 left in the first. Denis Malgin set up the goal by stealing the puck and getting a pass off to Huberdeau, who rang one in off the left post.

Huberdeau had the only goal of the second period, scoring off a pass from Vincent Trocheck. But Toronto extended its lead to 4-2 with 8:12 left in the third. Tyler Bozak, working behind the net, centered the puck to van Riemsdyk, who was stoned by Luongo before tapping in his own rebound.

Dadonov’s goal, which came after the Panthers pulled Luongo for an extra attacker, made things interesting, but the Leafs held on for the win.

—Field Level Media

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