TORONTO, CANADA - FEBRUARY 28: Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates away as Mike Santorelli #13 of the Florida Panthers celebrates his goal during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre February 28, 2012 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
The Florida Panthers improved to 30-20-12 and continue to lead the Southeast Division after an impressive 5-3 road win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Florida Panthers maintained their lead in the Southeast Division with an impressive 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. Mike Santorelli set the pace early with a multi-goal game, scoring two of Florida's first three goals and giving the Cats a two-goal lead heading into the final twenty minutes. The Panthers were out-shot 31-23 but goalie Jose Theodore stood tall in the final period to keep the Leafs from making it interesting.
Florida set the tone early, as Marcel Goc scored on the opening shift of the game just 13 seconds after the puck dropped. Santorelli would then add his two before a four-goal back-and-forth final period kept the Cats in control. Jason Garrison scored the crucial goal to give Florida a three goal lead with just 15 minutes to play. Garrison was unassisted on the power play strike. Stephen Weiss would remove all doubt when he pushed the lead back to three with ten minutes to play. A late Joffrey Lupul goal would do no damage and the Cats would add three more points, as they continue to hold off the Caps who got a late overtime win over the Islanders. The Panthers now continue their road trip up north with a trip to Winnipeg on Thursday night.
For more news, analysis, and discussion of the Panthers, check out Litter Box Cats, SB Nation's Panthers blog. For the opponent's perspective, visit Pension Plan Puppets, SB Nation's Maple Leafs blog. For all your NHL news as the playoffs approach, check out SB Nation's hockey hub.