Photo Credit: Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SPORTS
Florida may not be the most traditional of hockey markets, but you wouldn’t know it from the way things have looked this year. For seemingly the first time ever, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning look like they could do some damage in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with exciting rosters, no less. Last night the Leafs wrapped up their season series with the Bolts in tank-friendly fashion. Tonight, it was time to face Roberto Luongo, Jaromir Jagr, and pals for the last time this season, but the real superstar was Nazem Kadri, who picked up a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory.
The Leafs opened the scoring in this one with seven minutes remaining in the first period, as Michael Grabner and Connor Brown found themselves on a shorthanded odd-man rush. Grabner, not far removed from a botched breakaway, passed the puck to Brown, but the rookie felt confident in his veteran teammate and sent it back to him to beat Roberto Luongo, who was once a teammate of Grabner’s in Vancouver.
This was the first period’s only goal, meaning that the Leafs carried the lead for quite some time. It didn’t last forever, though, as the Panthers scored a very similar goal early in the second. This time, Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov moved up the ice, and Huberdeau opted to shoot rather than pass. It was a move that surprised both Morgan Rielly and Jonathan Bernier, and reset the environment for the game.
A few minutes later, Nazem Kadri drew a penalty out of Jaromir Jagr, which appeared to trigger a second gear of motivation in the skilled centre. While on a powerplay that he created, Kadri potted his 15th of the season. Eight minutes later, he did it again, showing great patience by stepping forward and roofing a backhand past Luongo for his second powerplay goal of the game.
Early in the third period, Kadri once again drew a penalty, this time sending former Leafs prospect Greg McKegg to the box. Kadri didn’t convert on this one, but PA Parenteau put all his weight into a snapshot to put the Leafs up by three. McKegg bounced back by scoring his first career goal a few minutes later, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Leafs, as Kadri eventually potted an empty netter to wrap up his hat-trick and wrap up the game.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 30, 2016
Can you pick anyone other than Naz? That’s the third hat trick of his career, and given that he’s doing this in the midst of a snake-bitten year rather than the “everything is going perfectly” PDO-fest of 2013, it might be even more impressive. Drew a couple of penalties too, both of which led to goals.
See You Next Time
With this game now a not-too-distant memory, the Leafs will move on to Buffalo to close out the month against the Sabres. That will happen on Thursday night, and as you know, could have some anti-standings implications attached to it! Puck drop is at 7:00 PM. See you then!