Forward lines: Connolly-Bozak-Kessel, MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin, Ashton-Steckel-Crabb, Rosehill-Lombardi-Frattin
Defence pairings: Phaneuf-Gunnarsson, Liles-Komisarek, Gardiner-Schenn
Goaltenders: Reimer (Loss 59:38 minutes played, 22 saves, 4 GA) Gustavsson (0:00)
The Leafs broke out of their scoring slump Tuesday night at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise Florida. Unfortunately it was just in time to see their season all but die at the hands of the Panthers, who swept the season series 4-0.
Since the lockout, the Leafs and the Panthers were the only two teams not to advance to the playoffs. But it looks like Florida swampland will provide a suitable resting place for the Buds as they will have the honour all to themselves after this year.
Toronto looked like they were prepared to come out flying, going hard to Florida netminder Jose Theodore on their first shift. But a boneheaded play by Mike Komisarek turned wine into vinegar pretty quickly. Leafs goalie James Reimer – who looked slow and uncertain for most of the night – had a tough rebound, but it was Komisarek chasing his man all over the ice that missed his check for an easy tap-in goal by Sean Bergenheim before the first minute of the game was up.
Last time the Leafs played Florida Captain Dion Phaneuf said, “We’ve got to do a better job of starting games.” This is a recording.
Coach Randy Carlyle said he thought Reimer looked nervous early on. Certainly with the support he got on the first goal, that could be expected after a long layoff.
Jay Rosehill tried to give the Leafs some gumption as he took on Krystofer Barch – getting tagged squarely a couple times – but eventually wrestled Barch to the ice. The Leafs buzzed the net some after that. Phaneuf in particular had a few missed chances.
Reimer made a huge save near the end of the first keeping the Leafs in the game and Ashton drew a penalty with 3 seconds to go. That was for naught as the Leafs couldn’t put one past a calm and collected Theodore to start the second period.
Jason Garrison, who’s making quite a case for himself as a potential unrestricted free agent this year, scored Florida’s second goal on a terrific tip from a Marcel Goc pass. The goal came only one second after the Leafs killed a Carter Ashton penalty and it was a tough one for Reimer – from the slot and off the post. Coach Carlyle thought Jovanovski might have embellished the call on Ashton just a little bit.
Garrison’s last goal was scored against the Leafs, and Reimer as well.
Coach Carlyle, after witnessing the Leafs getting boxed out in front of the Florda net and not creating enough chances, started shuffling the lines halfway through the game. Toronto had gone 196 minutes and 26 seconds between goals before Tyler Bozak broke the Leafs out of their slump on what seemed to be a potential momentum changer with a minute to go in the second. The goal got the Leafs back into the game with the score 2-1.
With the Leafs attempting to make a push in the third period the wheels came off again with offensive zone penalties; first to Ashton, then to Bozak. The Panthers capitalized on both power play opportunities.
Mikhail Grabovski scored his 22nd goal after some good team passing and some drive by Luke Schenn bringing the Leafs within two. But five minutes later Bergenheim hit the empty net with the Leafs pushing with an extra attacker, sealing the deal.
Carter Ashton had an up-and-down night, strong at times on the boards, but also taking two penalties that ultimately led to two goals. Attempting to atone for his sins Carter took on Shawn Matthias in a lively scrap halfway through the third.
Randy Carlyle’s message to the team after the game was that they “self destructed.” No kidding. That pretty much sums up everything that’s happened in the last few weeks. The Leafs aren’t defying gravity in any way, shape or form. The free fall stands at 2-13-2 over the last 17 games.
Leafs GM Brian Burke can talk all he wants about how they aren’t out of it – not technically, no. But after getting only 6 of the last 34 possible points, the Leafs are 10 points out of a playoff spot and 2 points out of a lottery pick at next years draft. Carolina and the Islanders are only one point back, the Habs 3 points back and currently sitting with potentially the third overall pick.
The Leafs are in Tampa next to take on the Lightning Thursday, March 15.
S-Mo is a Leafs fan and hockey homer in the form of an aggregate artist/writer/human being.