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Tavares powers Maple Leafs past Panthers 5-2

March 28, 2022 GMT
Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates with teammate Mitchell Marner after scoring the team's third goal and his second of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers during second-period action in Toronto, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates with teammate Mitchell Marner after scoring the team's third goal and his second of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers during second-period action in Toronto, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates with teammate Mitchell Marner after scoring the team's third goal and his second of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers during second-period action in Toronto, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates with teammate Mitchell Marner after scoring the team's third goal and his second of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers during second-period action in Toronto, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto Maple Leafs' John Tavares (91) celebrates with teammate Mitchell Marner after scoring the team's third goal and his second of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers during second-period action in Toronto, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) — John Tavares scored two power-play goals in the second period, helping the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday night.

Mitch Marner set up three goals, including both of Tavares’ scores, and Morgan Rielly, Ilya Mikheyev and Auston Matthews — into an empty net with less than a second remaining — also scored for the Maple Leafs. Petr Mrazek made 33 saves as Toronto won for the second time in three games since the trade deadline.

The win came after the Canadian men’s soccer team clinched its first spot in the World Cup since 1986 with a 4-0 win against Jamaica at nearby BMO Field. There was a buzz among the 18,939 at Scotiabank Arena before the game, and the Maple Leafs acknowledged the soccer game was on in the dressing room.

“I stopped watching when it got to 3-cobb. Sorry, it’s soccer, 3-nil,” said Marner, who with three assists became the fastest player in Maple Leafs history to reach 300 career assists in his 411th game.

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Brandon Montour and Ryan Lomberg scored for Eastern Conference-leading Florida, which lost for the first time in three games since acquiring Claude Giroux from Philadelphia last weekend. Spencer Knight stopped 18 shots.

“The games against them (Leafs) are going to be high intensity, playoff-type games,” said Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. “It’s going to be like that down the stretch against every team. It’s an exciting team to play and we’ll be ready to go next time.”

The Panthers outshot the Maple Leafs 31-23, but went 0 for 3 with the man advantage.

“We didn’t give up too many chances offensively with odd-man rushes or anything like that,” Marner said. “We played well with our gap control, forwards made reads quickly, and our defense had great gaps as well with being tight up, so just overall the five guys on the ice always were just playing in sync there, and that’s what we talked about and what we needed to do.

“So just a good job executing.”

The Maple Leafs needed only 11 seconds to give the crowd at Scotiabank Arena something cheer about as Rielly redirected a pass from T.J. Brodie for a 1-0 advantage.

The Panthers tied it when Sam Bennett found Montour in the slot and Mountour fired a high shot past Mrazek.

Florida took the lead early in the second when Toronto’s William Nylander had the puck poked off his stick by Eetu Luostarinen, and it went to Lomberg for the go-ahead goal.

Tavares scored his power-play goals 6:02 apart to give the Maple Leafs the advantage again.

Tavares’ first goal came on a rebound from a shot by Marner.

Marner then found Tavares to the side of the net with a sweeping pass for the go-ahead goal.

“We got a little bit away from our game,” Lomberg said. “Although they won, there’s definitely some things we can change up. Some adjustments to be made. We’re not worried. We’re going to get back to work.”

UP NEXT

Panthers: Host the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Maple Leafs: Visit Boston on Tuesday night to take on the Bruins.

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