Knee Jerk Reaction: Leafs pick up two crucial points in sweaty affair with Panthers

Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
16 days ago
If you missed the game, you’re probably looking at the score and saying “We’re so back”.
Then, you’d probably see that the Toronto Maple Leafs had a 5-1 lead over the Florida Panthers at one point in the game and say “It’s so over”.
Then, you’d go back and catch the highlights, see contributions all around the lineup for a Leafs team that matched the Panthers’ physicality, and probably settle for a neutral “We’re back…for now.”
More important than any analysis of the game is the fact that the Leafs walked away with two points in a tight playoff race, and did so against the team they’re chasing. They’re now four points back of the Panthers with a game in hand and extended their gap on the Tampa Bay Lightning by two points to bring the deficit to six. Auston Matthews is going to get some credit for notching goals #61 and #62, the second being an empty netter to ice the game for the Leafs, but the bottom of the lineup deserves some serious credit for carrying the mail in the win.
Nick Robertson opened the scoring, good for both his team and his continued efforts to stay in the lineup, and it wasn’t the only contribution from the newly-formed “kid line” of Robertson, Matthew Knies, and Pontus Holmberg. Knies scored the fifth goal of the game following a nifty feed from Holmberg following a calculated effort to get the puck deep and also stood up for him after Panthers defenceman Niko Mikkola laid a questionable hit on him.
It wasn’t Ilya Samsonov’s sharpest start, but he held it together for the Leafs and earned his 100th career win in the process. Getting to where he is now after being waived a little over two months ago is undoubtedly one of the best comeback stories of the season and has to be a nod of confidence for him at the most important time of the season.
The Leafs will host the Lightning on Wednesday night, in a game that’s equally important to the one they played tonight. That game could potentially see the return of both Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly, which would provide a massive boost right when they need it the most.

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