TORONTO (AP)—The Florida Panthers left no doubts as to whether they would win this one.
“The coaches really stressed to keep going and not let them back into the game,” McLean said. “We’ve had a couple games this year where we have had leads in the second and third periods and we have let teams creep back in, so we really wanted to keep our foot on the gas pedal and we obviously did that.”
They sure did. It was the largest loss of the season for the Maple Leafs.
“I think right now we’re a little bit shell-shocked,” Toronto defenseman Hal Gill said.
The game started as a battle of teams trying desperately to get back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but the Panthers came out with more jump. They pinned the Maple Leafs in their own end for the first two minutes and rarely looked threatened the rest of the night.
Zednik gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 6:31 of the first period while on a power play. He tipped a point shot past Vesa Toskala for his second goal in as many games after playing the previous 20 without one.
A second-period collapse sealed another loss for the Maple Leafs.
“The second period, we just got our confidence checked and it wasn’t there,” Gill said. “We just started doing things that we can’t do as a team to win and they took advantage of it. I hate when it snowballs like that, but that’s what happened.”
Horton made it 2-0 just 10 seconds in after taking a nice pass from David Booth. Leafs forward Kyle Wellwood turned the puck over to start the rush that led to the goal and only saw one shift the rest of the period.
After watching Jokinen score his 26th goal of the season at 3:46, Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice called a timeout. He moved up and down the bench delivering a spirited speech to his players, but they didn’t respond.
Instead, Murphy made it 4-0 for Florida at 8:19 when his long wrist shot sailed through a crowd and into the top of the goal. That prompted the Leafs coach to replace Toskala with backup Andrew Raycroft.
Maurice’s next message was sent with ice time. Fourth-line grinders Wade Belak, Kris Newbury and Ben Ondrus found themselves on the ice a lot more often late in the second and were able to cause some havoc in the Panthers’ end.
The Maple Leafs showed little emotion outside of a rare fight by Matt Stajan after Montador had already made it 5-0.
“We can’t roll over like that in any game,” said Stajan, who fought Ruslan Salei. “It’s embarrassing to lose like that on home ice. We know that in this room.”
Shortly after, Zednik scored power-play goals a minute apart to complete the hat trick and make it 7-0. McLean’s goal made it 8-0 with 2:54 left, causing the sellout crowd at Air Canada Centre to erupt into a mock cheer.
“That was clearly worse than booing,” Maurice said.
Jokinen’s goal was the 200th of his career … Mats Sundin remained stuck on 1,299 career points … Toronto was without Bryan McCabe (hand), Nik Antropov (suspension), Alex Steen (shoulder), Alexei Ponikarovsky (shoulder), Chad Kilger (personal reasons), Mark Bell (face) and John Pohl (ankle) … The Panthers are also banged up. They were missing Jozef Stumpel (shoulder), Mike Van Ryn (wrist), Noah Welch (shoulder), Rostislav Olesz (hand), Ville Peltonen (foot) and Garth Murray (shoulder).