It was the biggest margin of victory in team history.
TORONTO â€” The Panthers’ most one-sided win in franchise history also happened to be one of the most surprising.
In a battle between two teams with injury-depleted rosters, Florida got a hat trick from Richard Zednik and five points from Brett McLean to rout Toronto 8-0 Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.
The Panthers had five previous wins in franchise history by six goals, three of them 6-0 shutouts.
Florida scored three goals in the opening 8:19 of the second period to take a 4-0 lead, then poured it on with four more in the third, when the Maple Leafs showed their frustration by instigating three fights.
Toronto pretty much quit after Florida made it 3-0. After it became 4-0, The Maple Leafs coach pulled the starting goalie Vesa Toskala for one who hasn’t won a game since November. Not a good sign.
The third period got ugly with fights. Florida scoring goals on both a 5-3 and 5-4 power plays as a result.
You can’t read too much into last night’s win. Toronto has the second worst record in the Southeast conference. Key players are hurt, or suspended. However Florida has always had trouble with the Maple Leafs. This was like only the Panthers’ 3rd win in the last 12 games between the two teams, and the first during the 07-08.
The bigger news in regards to last night’s game may be this-
The win helped tighten the already close Southeast Division, with Florida (25-25-5) trailing co-leaders Carolina and Atlanta by just one point with a game in hand. Both the Hurricanes and Thrashers lost Tuesday night.
Florida’s three-game winning streak to within a point of the Division lead. Carolina and Atlanta have played one more game than the cats, which is the good news. On the negative side, Washington has played one less game than Florida.
It’s close, darn close. If Florida can win the division, the Eastern division is up for grabs. Ottawa isn’t playing up to snuff and if that doesn’t chang, and Carolina doesn’t make the playoffs, only Pittsburgh particularly worries me in the conference so far as the Panthers go.
It also was Florida’s 11th victory in its past 16 road games and improved its road record to 14-13-1. Only four Panthers teams have won more than 14 road games; the record is 18, held by the inaugural 1993-94 team. The team has 14 road games left this season.
Florida’s road record at least tells me this team can compete, if they want to. Right now the cats have won three in a row, including two on the road. The next three games are at Ottawa, Buffalo, and then Boston. Three games in four days starting tomorrow night. If the Panthers can win two of these, their season may well have turned.
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