It took the Leafs 7:19 before they were finally able to register a shot on goal against the Florida Panthers - a harmless drive from the point by Carl Gunnarsson. The shot clock then read 9-1. It was a sign of things to come. By the time the first period had ended, the clock read 19-4. After forty minutes: 37-12, yet remarkably the Maple Leafs still had a chance to win, solely due to Jonathan Bernier, who, among other examples, denied Jonathan Huberdeau and Scottie Upshall on clear cut breakaways.
"We didn't really have anything going other than one person in the line up who was outstanding for our hockey club and it was our goaltender," said a baffled Randy Carlyle. "We just didn't seem to have any jump or any passion to play the game and it's kind of mind boggling right now."
Jesse Winchester eventually put the Panthers up 2-0 before David Clarkson finally got the Leafs on the board, scoring his fourth goal of the season. But four minutes later, Shawn Matthias restored the Panthers' two goal lead, putting the game out of reach.
"Those are wasted efforts as you'd call them," Carlyle explained. "Over the course of the season when you get an effort like that from your goaltender, it's a like a pitcher throwing a no hitter. That's the same analogy that you use when you have a performance like he was supporting our group with tonight."
It marked the third straight game against the Panthers this season that the Maple Leafs got out to a poor start. A 3-1 loss on December 17th reflected a similarly uninspired effort. Last week, the Leafs were able to overcome an early 2-0 deficit but there would be no improvement found on this occasion as they went on to fall 4-1 to Florida.
"The first ten minutes we were just standing around and they were jumping by us," said Carlyle. "It was like we weren't engaged in the hockey game at all."
1) Raymond Calls Loss The Worst Effort of the Season
While the Leafs have suffered worse losses this season – 6-0 to the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 25th, 7-1 to the New York Rangers on Jan. 4 and 7-1 to the Dallas Stars on January 23rd – Mason Raymond suggest he felt tonight's effort fell to the lowest he'd seen it so far.
"No excuse for the way we played, we've had a few tough games this year but I don't think anywhere as this bad," said Raymond. "We were outplayed almost in all aspects of the game."
In terms of lessons to be learned, just moving on, Raymond said, might be the best way to go.
"I'm sure we'll do a little reflecting on it but I think it's one you flush pretty quick and move on," the 28 year old explained. "Those were important points that we let slip away and that's unfortunate."
2) Carlyle Juggles The Lines
After two periods of lethargic play, Randy Carlyle opted to shuffle his lines, looking for any kind of a spark with the Leafs still within striking distance.
"Just tried to get something going because we had nothing going and just pleading to the group that we have a goaltender that's standing on his head here and it's a 1-0 hockey game, tried to give ourselves a chance with a decent period to steal some points," explained the head coach.
The move worked, at least temporarily, leading to David Clarkson's goal on a nifty set up from Nazem Kadri.
Start of the Game
James Van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak- Phil Kessel
Joffrey Lupul - Nazem Kadri - Nikolai Kulemin
Mason Raymond - Jay McClement - David Clarkson
Troy Bodie - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr
Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
James Van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - David Clarkson
Mason Raymond - Jay McClement - Nikolai Kulemin
Troy Bodie - Jerred Smithson - Colton Orr
3) Gardiner's Fight Marks An NHL First
A pair of unlikely combatants, Jake Gardiner and Jonathan Huberdeau dropped the gloves 6:31 into the second period in a fight that was more of a wrestling match than a typical NHL scrap.
"It wasn't much of a fight," said Gardiner. "Stuff happens in the game, you get emotional and sometimes you have to fight."
Just how unlikely was it for Gardiner to find himself in a scrap? To the best of his recollection, he could only come up with one other instance where he dropped the gloves.
"It was in practice when I was in college (at the University of Wisconsin), it was a while back," Gardiner recalled.
4) Clarkson Hoping To Hit "Reset Button"
After missing the first ten games of the season due to a suspension, another two contests in mid-December to a second suspension, a game on January 7th against the Islanders because of a foot injury and most recently, eight games because of an elbow injury, David Clarkson marked his fourth separate return to the line up on Tuesday against the Panthers. With 25 games left to go, Clarkson is looking to hit the reset button and put all his nagging issues behind him.
"I'm hoping, I've had a chance to hit that button a couple times," said Clarkson, who has just four goals and five assists in 37 games.
Coach Randy Carlyle insisted patience is the right approach for Clarkson, who seems like he has continually been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to live up to massive expectations this season.
"I don't want to put too much emphasis on Clarkson when a player is coming back into your line up after missing an extended period of time," said Carlyle. "We're more suited to let the player get his feet underneath him before we make these great proclamations of what he's going to do and where he's going to be at."
While sitting and watching, Clarkson has admitted, is never easy for him, the Leafs solid run, going 6-1-1 in the eight games he missed made it somewhat tolerable.
"The fact that we've been winning, it makes it a lot easier sitting there because you're not in the stands or after the game upset," Clarkson explained, who has watched the Leafs amass a record of 14-6-1 without him in the line up compared to 16-16-5 with him dressed.
As for what set Clarkson's season off on the wrong foot, Carlyle didn't have to think long for an explanation.
"I think the ten game suspension obviously had an effect, simple as that," said Carlyle.
5) JVR Plays Despite Battling Flu Bug
James Van Riemsdyk seems to have it all figured out. The Middletown, New Jersey native has not participated in a full practice since January 24th in Winnipeg – he left part way through on January 26th – but has not missed a game during that stretch. Last week, JVR's absence was due to an undisclosed injury. On Monday, it was a bout of the flu that forced him to miss the team's workout at MasterCard Centre and subsequent charter flight to Fort Lauderdale.
But there was still one Van Riemsdyk on the team's flight on Monday; James' father Frans, who accompanied the other dads on the Leafs annual father's trip.
"I made the decision to send him along on the charter so he gets that whole experience and I'm sure he had a great time last night," said James.
James made his way down to Florida early Tuesday morning on a 6:30am commercial flight and received well wishes from other travellers.
"I got a couple tweets in the airport, a couple 'good lucks'," he explained.
Asked how his day of recovery from the flu went on Monday, James smiled, laughed and said, "I don't want to get into it."
- 9-0: Shot total in favour of Panthers when Carl Gunnarsson registered first shot for the Leafs at the 7:19 mark of the 1st period
- 19-4: Shots in favour of Panthers after 1st period
- 37-12: Shots in favour of Panthers after 2nd period
- 44: Stops made by Jonathan Bernier, his second highest total this season behind only the 48 stops he made on Dec. 5 against Dallas
- 16:30: David Clarkson's ice time in his return to the line up after an 8 game absence
- 7: Hits Clarkson registered, leading the Leafs in that category
- 3: Leafs win streak snapped at three games; Panthers losing streak snapped at three games
- 16: Number of times the Leafs have allowed more than 40 shots
- 2: The amount of power play goals the Panthers have scored in their last 53 opportunities after Tom Gilbert's goal against the Leafs
Quote of the night:
- Mason Raymond on whether the team felt added pressure with playing in front of their fathers, who are along on the annual dads trip: "No, again, we're professional athletes. We're expected to have mental preparation and be prepared for the game and we weren't, we were flat from the start. Thankfully Bernie was playing well at the start or it would have been a lot worse."
Up next: The Leafs are in Tampa Bay on Thursday for their second of four head to head meetings with the Lightning. Toronto won the first game on Jan. 28 3-2 at Air Canada Centre.