SUNRISE, Fla. — Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals, including the game winner in overtime Tuesday night, and the Florida Panthers outlasted the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-6, after falling down by four goals for the second time in three games.
Huberdeau also had three assists in the win, becoming the first Panther in franchise history to record a 100-point season. At 102, Huberdeau ended his night second in the league in scoring.
The Panthers, owners of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference if the season ended on Tuesday, may well end up playing the Maple Leafs in the postseason, and if so, the league will be in for a dandy. Tuesday’s game featured four goalies, two short-handed goals, six power-play goals, and fans of both teams on their feet most of the night.
“It is incredible. The atmosphere was awesome,” Huberdeau said. “We’ve got to stop getting down by four goals, but just with the character of the team, we came back again tonight. A good win.”
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On Saturday, Florida trailed the New Jersey Devils, 6-2, in the third period before rallying with five straight to end the game, including the winner in overtime.
On Tuesday, like Saturday’s win, backup goaltender Spencer Knight was called into duty, relieving an ineffective Sergei Bobrovsky. Knight allowed two goals on 21 shots in registering the win. Bobrovsky allowed four in 14 shots.
“He didn’t start but he came in ready, obviously made some huge saves,” Huberdeau said of Knight. “And he came out with a big win.”
The news wasn’t much better in the other net, where Toronto starter Erik Kallgren allowed three goals before leaving with an injury, and Jack Campbell allowed four, including the overtime goal, en route to the loss.
Auston Matthews, Toronto’s leading scorer, came into the game needing one goal to get to 55, which will be a single-season record for the Original Six franchise. But, in the end, he was among the few stars on either side not to score, though he did register three assists. Toronto managed to tie a franchise record last achieved in 1983-84 by scoring five or more goals for the sixth straight game.
“We go from being on a breakaway with a chance to make it 6-1, don’t score and then follow that up with a too many men on the ice penalty right after, so it starts to snowball,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Inside of that, we had some pretty terrible penalty killing.”
Mitchell Marner, Matthews’ linemate, had two goals and four points in the loss for the Maple Leafs, who had defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 6-2, the night before. The regulation point vs. Florida gave them 96 for the season, good for second place in the Atlantic Division behind the Panthers.
Florida has now won five in a row, and eight of nine. Claude Giroux — the league’s most notable acquisition at the trade deadline, coming to Florida from the Philadelphia Flyers — posted his first goal as a Panther in the win.
“We’re really good at home, and it’s because of these guys,” Huberdeau said as he pointed to the fans in his postgame in-arena interview on the bench. “Let’s keep it going.”
If the season ended on Tuesday, Florida would face the Washington Capitals, while Toronto would meet Tampa Bay in Round 1.
“It’s been a stressful month, playing some sloppy hockey, and we have to figure out and sort a few things out defensively,” Florida defenseman MacKenzie Weegar said. “Our structure just isn’t there. We’re finding ways to win, obviously. But in the playoffs, it’s going to be hard to come back from four or five goals.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.