For 65 minutes, the sun certainly wasn’t shining for Mitch Marner in the Sunshine State.
The dynamic Leafs rookie was foiled on all nine shots on goal he registered against Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo as the teams played to a 2-2 deadlock throughout regulation and overtime. Indeed, several of Marner’s opportunities were quality scoring chances, including a pair of breakaways.
Cue the shootout.
With the Leafs still looking for their first victory of 2016-17 in the gimmicky skills competition, Marner sealed the 3-2 win for his team by finally getting the better of his nemesis, Luongo. It was Toronto’s first successful result in the shootout in six tries this season.
Toronto opened the scoring in the first period as Auston Matthews, at the top of the Panthers’ crease, netted his team-leading 17th marker of the year.
The Leafs appeared to take a two-goal lead on a second period power play, courtesy of an apparent goal by James van Riemsdyk. But, Florida coach Tom Rowe pleaded goaltender interference and challenged the play. After a lengthy review, officials determined that Nazem Kadri made contact with Luongo’s blocker, thus disallowing the goal.
Not to be denied, Toronto did score just moments later when William Nylander converted a cross ice pass from Matthews, using his quick release to beat Luongo. It was the young Swede’s team-leading fifth power play marker on the year.
Of course, the Leafs have displayed a penchant for blowing third period leads, and Wednesday night’s affair at BB&T Center was no exception. Just 29 seconds into the final frame, Jonathan Marchessault brought his team to within a goal.
Two minutes, 14 seconds later, Marchessault created a turnover, fighting off Nikita Zaitsev in the corner behind the Leafs goal and feeding the puck into the scoring area. Eventually Vincent Trocheck buried a rebound past Frederik Andersen for the tying goal.
A frantic overtime session saw a goalie duel staged between Andersen and Luongo. The Leafs enjoyed a 4-on-3 power play when the Panthers were called for too many men on the ice, but could not capitalize, setting up the shootout.
The victory was Toronto’s third straight win. Tyler Bozak returned to the lineup after missing the last three games with a lower-body injury.