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Florida Panthers finally getting home-cooking after long road stretch



Florida panthers
The Florida Panthers celebrate one of their home victories — this one against the Vancouver Canucks in January — at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise. — Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The Florida Panthers wrapped up a road stretch that spanned nine of their past 10 games with a 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night.

During that span, the Panthers traveled to the West Coast, came back for a five-day break, then went right back to Canada.

“It was a really tricky trip,” Panthers coach Andrew Brunette said. “I really liked our road effort night in and night out. We put ourselves in a position to win games and that’s all you can ask for.”

They didn’t do so bad for themselves, going 6-2-1 in those nine road games — including a 2-1 record on this most recent trip.

“The road trip itself wasn’t bad, we got four out of six points,” MacKenzie Weegar said.

“It’s going to be nice to get home and get to our home fans and play solid, fast hockey like we usually do at FLA Live Arena.”

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Home is a place the Panthers have been very comfortable at this season.

Florida is 26-6-0 in front of their home fans in Sunrise, the second-best home record in the league just behind the Colorado Avalanche.

And now, they’ll get to play there a little more often.

After playing just one home game in the past three weeks, the Panthers will end their season with nine of the final 17 games at home.

“You have to feel that energy,” Sergei Bobrovsky said. “It’s tough to describe how much much fun it is to play in that building and have that Panthers jersey on your chest.

“The fans are great, they support us and we try to play our best for them.”

On Sunday, the Leafs took the initial lead 49 seconds into the game but Florida tied it up ten minutes later when Brandon Montour blasted a one-timer past Petr Mrazek off of a feed from Sam Bennett.

Ryan Lomberg then gave the Panthers the lead 1:27 into the second period.

It was their only lead of the night.

Two power-play goals from John Tavares in the second put the Leafs on top — and they did not look back.

Ilya Mikheyev broke loose on an odd-man rush, in between Radko Gudas and Robert Hagg, and scored on a backhander midway through the third period.

That was just about all she wrote, with Auston Matthews padding his goal total with an empty net goal with 0.4 seconds left to pad the score.

Florida will play host to the Leafs twice before the end of the regular season.



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