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What Went Wrong for the Florida Panthers in Toronto?

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Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice answers questions following his team’s 6-4 loss in Toronto on Monday night.

The Florida Panthers came into Monday’s game in Toronto knowing they could be facing the Maple Leafs in the first-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs later this month.

It looked like Toronto knew that, as well.

The Maple Leafs came out firing, and, helped by a mountain of mistakes from the Panthers, built a lead too big to overcome.

Florida scored three goals in the third period, but it was simply not enough as the Maple Leafs won their third straight with a 6-4 win.

What went wrong?

“We didn’t bring out best in the beginning,’’ said Vladimir Tarasenko, “and we have to work on starting the game right away.

“It was a good push in the third but it was not enough.”

No, it was not.

Toronto led 2-0 after the first period and then scored three more in the second to take control of the game.

Florida showed life early in the second when Brandon Montour drew the Panthers back within a goal, but things fell apart quickly.

Tyler Bertuzzi knocked in an Auston Matthews shot from the net front 41 seconds later to restore Toronto’s two-goal lead.

Toronto scored four of its goals from near the blue paint as Florida lost battles and made countless mistakes in those areas.

In the first period, it was a Dmitry Kulikov turnover which led to the first goal being scored on a breakaway.

Sasha Barkov stumbling led to Matthews being wide-open in front of Sergei Bobrovsky for the second.

David Kampf and Matthew Knies scored the team’s fourth and fifth goals in those same areas to put Toronto what appeared to be comfortably ahead.

“All of their goals were in the crease and close to the net,” Montour said. “Easy mistakes that are uncharacteristic for our team.”

Coach Paul Maurice said he hopes teams scouting Florida for the playoffs watch this game because it is not indicative of the way the Panthers play.

“They won the game and deserved to win the game,” Maurice said. “There would not be a lot in that game that you could pre-scout from our team. If you are going to prep your playoff video, there is not be a lot you could use. I would hope they (use it), but I don’t think they will.’’

Fueled by a three-point effort from Tarasenko, the Panthers clawed their way back in the third period.

He got things started 2:40 into the third period, deflecting a Niko Mikkola shot past Ilya Samsonov.

Tarasenko then threaded a pass through traffic to find Sam Reinhart in the slot, who one-timed the shot home with 8:02 to go to make it a two-goal game.

Sam Bennett drew Florida within a goal with a point shot off of a feed from Tarasenko

But Auston Matthews found the empty net with 46 seconds to go, just after Tarasenko went down and blocked a clearing attempt, doing his best to keep it in.

“I don’t think it’s about points,“ Tarasenko said of his performance. “When you play in a big game in this building, it’s nice to win them. When you lose, you don’t think about the points people [score.] It’s nice to score, make passes, but when you lose, you need to need to learn from the experience.

“Like I said, the main thing is we need to start earlier, play our game right away and just push for 60 minutes.”

GR’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

1. Auston Matthews, Toronto

2. Vladimir Tarasenko, Florida

3. Matthew Knies, Toronto

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ MONTREAL CANADIENS

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