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Lupul leads Maple Leafs past Panthers, 3-2

AP - Sports
Lupul leads Maple Leafs past Panthers, 3-2
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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul, left, celebrates his winning goal against the Florida Panthers …

TORONTO (AP) -- Joffrey Lupul and Toronto Maple Leafs skated off a full two points in the standings after letting one slip away a night earlier in Boston. It wasn't easy against the lowly Florida Panthers.

Lupul scored twice in the third period, and Ben Scrivens made 40 saves in the Maple Leafs' 3-2 victory Tuesday night. Toronto rebounded for a shootout loss in Boston on Monday night.

Lupul scored on a power play 22 seconds into the third to put Toronto ahead 2-1. Florida tied it 23 seconds later when Shawn Matthias banked in the puck off Leafs defenseman Mike Kostka, and Lupul brought the Air Canada Centre crowd to its feet again at 3:12 with his second of the game.

''I'll give them credit. They came out and played real hard,'' Lupul said. ''It's definitely not the Boston Bruins over there as far as names and experience go, but they came out and played hard. They were forechecking hard the whole game and even the last couple of minutes they battled hard.''

Lupul has six goals in four games since returning from a broken forearm. He also scored Monday night in Boston, giving him three goals in two games since returning from a two-game suspension.

''Definitely, when you've scored in a couple of games in a row your confidence starts to go up,'' Lupul said. ''We just have to enjoy this while it goes. I'm not expecting it to last forever, so I just have to keep doing other things on the ice right and continue to be a factor in the game.''

After a dismal start, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle mixed up his lines, taking Lupul from his usual spot with Nazem Kadri and Nikolai Kulemin and putting him with Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel.

''I was seeing nothing so it made it easy,'' Carlyle said. ''We didn't have a lot going, we were a step-and-a-half behind and just weren't skating. They were much more eager than we were and they won more puck battles and executed to a higher level so we had to do something. We couldn't continue to go on that way.''

Carlyle praised Lupul.

''He just plays the game at a higher level and works at a higher level than a lot of people,'' Carlyle said. ''That's a great example for our younger players.''

Carlyle also commended his players for finding a way to win despite not playing their best.

''There's a number of excuses but we can't use excuses this time of year, we just have to find ways to get it done,'' he said. ''Once we got our game going then we were able to feel much better about ourselves because we were pretty low there for a good part of the hockey game. They reached back ... and they're to be commended because that's not an easy situation they've just been through.''

Scrivens preserved the one-goal lead with a glove save on Tyson Strachan with 7:15 left.

Dion Phaneuf also scored for Toronto (18-12-4), which played its third game in four nights. The Leafs return to action Thursday night at home against Carolina.

Toronto improved to 9-6-2 at home to remain sixth in the Eastern Conference with 40 points, two behind fifth-place Ottawa.

Tomas Fleischmann also scored for Florida (9-19-6), which was coming off a 3-0 loss at the New York Islanders on Sunday night. The Panthers, last in the Eastern Conference, suffered their third straight loss concluding a five-game trip.

''We looked like different teams in different sections of the game,'' Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. ''We had a fairly strong finish but not enough to get the job done.

''Obviously, we caught them on a tired night early in the game. I liked our tempo early but that's something we have to keep throughout the whole game.''

Jacob Markstrom made 28 saves for Florida.

''I thought we deserved a better outcome than this,'' Markstrom said. ''I thought we played a good game and we had a lot of shots on net. We've just got to continue to do that and good things will happen. It's not fun to lose and let three goals in. I felt good but you don't want to lose.''

NOTES: Scrivens stopped 37 shots in Toronto's 3-0 win at Florida on Feb. 18. ... Toronto entered the game leading the NHL in hits (1,075), blocked shots (553) and fighting majors (33).

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