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Florida Panthers Top Toronto Maple Leafs In A Thriller, 5-3

As the Florida Panthers and the Toronto Maple Leafs take the ice in Sunrise, the Blue and White clad crowd nearly outnumber the Florida faithful.

First Period:

It didn’t take Florida long to get on the board, as Erik Gudbranson scored his second goal of the season on a hard slapshot from the right point. Tim Kennedy was awarded an assist on the play.

The Panthers were controlling play throughout most of the first period, as the Leafs didn’t get their first shot on goal until Cody Franssen fired a wrister at Jose Theodore at the nine minute mark of the period.

A loose puck in front of the Florida net almost led to a tying goal by David Steckel at the ten minute mark, but Theodore somehow kept the puck from crossing the goal line.

The Leafs went on the power play with five minutes left in the first period when Jason Garrison was called for hooking Matt Frattin. Toronto managed to get two shots on goal, but no payoff.

Second Period:

Just two minutes into the second, the Leafs evened the score up when Mikhail Grabovski scored his ninth of the season top shelf on Jose Theodore, with assists by Cody Fransson and Nikolai Kulemin.

It would take Florida 19 seconds to reestablish their one goal lead, as Bill Thomas led a breakaway and fanned on the shot but the puck went in anyway for his first goal of the season, with assists by Evgeny Dadonov and Mark Cullen.

Florida went on the power play when Keith Aulie cross checked Tim Kennedy at the 17 minute mark. On the resultant man advantage, Jason Garrison scored his 11th goal of the season to chase James Reimer, who allowed three goals on his first seven shots. Brian Campbell and Michel Repik collected assists on the play.

Florida went on a five-on-three power play after Mikhail Grabovski slashed Dmitry Kulikov and the bench was called for too many men just 40 seconds later.

The Panthers went up 4-1 with the two man advantage when Kris Versteeg scored his team leading 17th goal of the season. Brian Campbell and Tomas Kopecky got the helpers on the play.

Dion Phaneuf made it 4-2 with a wrister from the right faceoff circle for his fifth goal of the season, with assists from Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul at the halfway mark of the second.

The teams traded chances for the rest of the period, but the score would remain 4-2 into the second intermission.

Third Period:

Brian Campbell was called for holding Carl Gunnarsson at the three minute mark. Florida equalled Toronto over the next two minutes, as the Cats engineered two odd man rushes to challenge Jonas Gustafsson, while the Maple Leafs twice kissed the Panthers goal post, but neither team could net a payoff goal.

Florida were again called for a penalty when Tomas Fleischmann received a questionable hooking penalty on Tim Connolly at the eight minute mark. After allowing the Panthers two more shorthanded chances, the Maple Leafs halved Florida’s lead to 4-3 on Mikhail Grabovsky’s second goal of the night and tenth of the season when he inadvertently kicked the puck in the net with 11 minutes left in regulation. Clarke MacArthur earned the assist on the play.

Tomas Fleischmann put the lead back at two on a hesitation move which froze Gustafsson with eight minutes left in the game.

Florida were again shorthanded on a delay of game penalty with seven minutes left. Kris Versteeg led another odd-man rush, the Panthers fifth shorthanded odd-man rush of the period.

Toronto iced the goaltender with 2:30 left in regulation in favor of the extra skater, but after a stoppage in play had to skate back out before parking it for good after the faceoff. Tomas Kopecky almost added an empty netter but put it off the post.

Toronto, 32-22 (Dion Phaneuf led all skaters with six while Matt Bradley led the Panthers with three).

Blocked Shots: Florida, 14-8 (Jason Garrison paced all players with four)

Faceoffs: Florida, 31-21 (Even with Stephen Weiss out, Florida dominated the faceoff circle, led by Tim Kennedy’s 6 of 8 and Mark Cullen’s 5 of 7).

Shots On Goal: Toronto, 32-26 (Michel Repik logged six shots on goal leading everyone, and was initially credited with two of Florida’s goals).

Panthers 5, Maple Leafs 3

For more on this matchup, go to the Florida Panthers dedicated blog, LitterBoxCats.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.