Playing without Aleksander Barkov, on the road and against a divisional opponent, the Florida Panthers hoped that Mark Pysyk would simply be able to tread water as a replacement forward versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Instead, they stumbled upon a new offensive weapon.
Pysyk, a defenceman, was arguably the Panthers’ forward tonight, driving to the net and repeatedly causing havoc in the offensive zone despite being a 28-year-old rearguard with 13 points in 41 games prior to Monday’s contest. Both of his goals came on the doorstep of the Leafs’ crease, as Toronto’s defenders routinely could not corral Pysyk in front of their own net.
And with the Leafs pressing to tie the game late in the third period with their goalie pulled, Pysyk put the cherry on top of a delicious performance by potting his first career hat trick.
It’s impossible to discuss Pysyk’s milestone without touching upon the team that let it happen.
At home, against a divisional opponent who was missing one of their top offensive assets, the Leafs committed brain lapse after brain lapse to surrender a crucial two points in a game they simply needed to win. Letting a defenceman who was playing as a forward pump them for three goals is merely rubbing salt in the wound.
Pysyk was simply better than the defenders tasked with covering him. And if tonight is any indication, he may have just discovered a whole new career path.
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