Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Recap | 04/16/2024

Florida celebrates after winning the Atlantic Division Title. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long regular season full of great highs and deep lows but Florida ended their regular season as the Atlantic Division Champions and are now facing down a round one series with in-state rival Tampa Bay. The Panthers rounded out the year against the Maple Leafs Tuesday night, anchored by another stellar performance from Stolarz, solid defense, and suffocating offensive pressure. While the first period quickly became irrelevant, it shouldn’t be overlooked that the Cats started slow, and the match was looking a lot like their game from a couple of weeks ago when Toronto took an early lead. This time around, Florida showed up to play in the second period and didn’t look back, dominating the play for the final 40 minutes and securing the 5-2 win and the division title after Boston lost to Ottawa.

Slow Start:

This was a game that potentially wouldn’t have meant anything. However, there was a division title still within grasp, as the Panthers were only one point behind the Bruins. The Cats came out looking like a team that was just waiting for the playoffs and clearly not playing their best against Toronto. The Leafs controlled the first period holding the advantage in SOG, hits, and blocked shots – the Panthers only held the advantage in the faceoff circle. The first period was also special teams heavy, with each side having two power plays, and while the Cats couldn’t convert on theirs, Toronto cashed in on the first PP of the night. For whatever reason, the Florida penalty kill has been more effective on the road than it’s been at home. Thankfully that was the only PP goal the Leafs would get for the rest of the game. The Panthers’ power play struggled to get set up in the first period allowing the Leafs easy clears and not much shot pressure. Toronto took a 0-2 lead leaving the first period just like the previous game on April 1st.

Second Period Domination:

It didn’t take Florida two and a half periods to wake up this time, the Florida team that could be a Cup contender showed up in the second period. Verhaeghe was back in the lineup and got the Cats on the board 28 seconds into the period. Just like that, the game felt manageable, and Florida was back in it. The Panthers didn’t take their foot off the gas either for the entire 20 minutes, they dominated the offensive zone time and only allowed four SOG for Toronto. In the span of three and a half minutes, the score went from 1-2 Leafs lead to 4-2 Florida lead. Bennett, Reinhart, and Montour all scored within that three-minute timeframe, with Bennett and Reinhart scoring within ten seconds of each other to give Florida the lead. Despite the power play being off currently, the team is scoring 5v5 which is more necessary for the Playoffs. Florida had 30 SOG in the second, the most of any team in any single period this season, and it’s not even the first time Florida fans have seen that happen, the Panthers had a 27 SOG period against the Avs earlier in the season. Florida also held the advantage in hits as well as dominating the faceoff circle. Overall it was one of the single best periods of hockey the Cats have played all year.

Division Champions and Tampa Bay Series:

The Panthers knew by the time the third period started that the division title was officially theirs for the taking, Boston had lost to Ottawa on home ice. The Cats had the lead now all they had to do was hold on to it. And hold on to it, they did, fighting off a determined Auston Matthews, who was looking for goal number 70, and a Leafs team desperately trying to get the puck to him as much as possible. Stolarz held strong, stopping 24 out 26 shots and a .923 SV%, and the defense was all over the ice, clearing loose pucks out of danger in the crease, blocking shots, and implementing heavy forechecking pressure. Reinhart scored his second goal of the night on an empty netter and ended the regular season with 57 goals, the third most in a single season by a Panther. He was only one goal short of tying second place and two goals short of tying the record. Florida played like they knew something was on the line and this was a great performance heading into the Playoffs this weekend. Round one is going to be an in-state rivalry showdown between the Panthers and the Lightning. It’s going to be a very tough round one especially if Vasilevskiy is in the net for Tampa Bay, you don’t know which Vasilevskiy you’re going to get. Florida could see the one from a month ago that robbed them of a victory where they had 50 SOG and still lost, or they could get the one from February where Florida put up four goals on him in a single period and chased him from the net by the second period when they scored goal number five. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting and heated first-round series.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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