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Lupul's offensive surge carries Maple Leafs past Panthers

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle wishes he had Joffrey Lupul to turn to more often in his year behind the Toronto bench. Carlyle, who took over from Ron Wilson on March 2, 2012, has had Lupul in his line-up for just eight games.

A season-ending shoulder injury last season to go along with a broken arm in January of this season and then a two-game suspension hasn't allowed Carlyle to turn to Lupul on many nights.

Tuesday though, Carlyle moved the 29-year-old back to a familiar spot, on the left side with Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, and the move paid off as Lupul found the net twice in a 3-2 Toronto win over Florida.

"I saw nothing, so it made it easy," Carlyle said of his line juggling. "We didn't have a lot going, we were a step and a half behind and we just weren't skating."

The line combined for six points in the win. Toronto now has points in six straight games.

"It's nice, we've played together a long time," said Lupul of re-joining Kessel and Bozak. "But I was really enjoying playing with Naz (Nazem Kadri) and Kuli (Nikolai Kulemin) too. That's a little different thing with our team this year, we have a little more depth and we can throw three, some nights, four lines that can give the opposition trouble."

Florida (9-19-6) finished its season-high five-game road trip 2-3-0.

Lupul took a Kessel feed and beat Jacob Markstrom for his sixth of the season just over three minutes into the third for the game winner.

"I probably didn't expect this sort of start stats wise," said Lupul, who now has six goals and an assist in four games since returning from injury. "I did put in a lot of work for those six weeks, especially on my skating.

"Obviously having a broken arm in a cast, I did a lot of extra work on my skating. If anything, that's what feels different in my game, I feel a little bit faster and my conditioning is pretty good."

Tied 1-1 after two periods, the two teams exchanged goals 23 seconds part in the first minute of the third.

Lupul briefly gave Toronto a 2-1 lead tapping a Bozak feed past Markstrom for his fifth of the season.

Asked if he knew Lupul had the offensive abilities he's shown this year, Carlyle, who also coached Lupul with the Ducks said, "No I didn't. We probably never would've traded him. The issue was we had to give something up to get Chris Pronger.

"The biggest mistake we made in Anaheim, and we accept full responsibility, is right from day one we didn't put him on the left wing. He's been a dynamic left-winger. He's much more responsible. I think the games slowed down for him and he's sped up so you got to commend the player."

Florida quickly responded as Shawn Matthias' pass directed off of Michael Kostka's skate and past Ben Scrivens tying it 2-2.

"I thought the effort was there," said Panthers defenseman, Brian Campbell. "I felt like it's a few mistakes that cost us a lot of games and they compound sometimes. Our system's better but we've got to try to establish some wins here and put something together."

Trailing 1-0 after 20 minutes, Toronto showed more life in the second.

Mikhail Grabovski had an excellent chance to get the Leafs on the board, on a breakaway, but he tripped just inside the Panthers blue line and failed to get a shot off.

Grabovski redeemed himself later in the period by setting up Dion Phaneuf for his sixth of the season, tying the game 1-1.

Moments after the Phaneuf goal, Florida nearly took a 2-1 lead as Matthias' shot beat Scrivens, but hit the post.

Toronto had a number of chances to take their first lead of the game in the middle frame.

Lupul's backhand on a partial break was turned aside by Markstrom. Then Matt Frattin's backhand got between the pads of Markstrom, but an early whistle prevented it from crossing the goal line.

Florida played a textbook road period in the first, opening the scoring on a fluke goal and outshooting the Maple Leafs 16-7.

"We looked like different teams in different sections of the game, said Panthers coach, Kevin Dineen. "(We) played 25-30 solid minutes and we have a few issues that we have to take care of. We had a fairly strong finish but not enough to get the job done."

Thomas Fleischmann's shot re-directed off Mark Fraser and past Scrivens for his seventh of the season.

NOTES: Maple Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur missed Tuesday's game with an upper body injury and was replaced by Matt Frattin. ... The Panthers had earned points in 16 of their last 20 games against the Leafs entering Tuesday, going 13-4-3 over that span. ... Florida averaged 2.5 goals in its first 23 games, but was limited to 1.9 per game over its last 10 games entering Tuesday. ... Toronto won the first meeting between the two teams 3-0 on Feb. 18 in Sunrise. ... The Maple Leafs entered Tuesday's game having lost three of its last five games in a shootout. Toronto is 0-4 in shootouts this season.

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