Goaltending Coach Robb Tallas of the Florida Panthers stands in the hallway dressed for back up after both Goaltenders went down against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the BB&T Center on March 3, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida. The Leafs held on to win their first road game since New Year’s Eve, beating the Panthers 3-2.
Windsor - March 4, 2015 - That rather large thud you may have heard a little after 3PM Monday was the sound of Leafs Nation banging their collective heads against the wall. The perception that Toronto GM Dave Nonis didn’t do enough at the trade deadline may be replaced by what he plans to do at the draft table this June. Not about to be forced into a corner and make hasty deals just for the sake of making them may end up speaking volumes in a few months. Nonis has a lot of players that other teams clearly have an interest in, but if the deal isn’t there, you don’t make it. We may never know about the offers Nonis has fielded in the past couple of weeks, and hats off to him for not buckling under the pressure to trade away the farm just to make a deal. Let’s give the guy some credit. He managed to somehow undo the seemingly impossible task of unloading the massive contract he gave to one hit wonder David Clarkson.
If this team is going ahead with a tear down and rebuild, there’s no hurry. The deals will come in the off season. So here we are, with the team that will finish off the next nineteen games playing for pride and trying to play the role of spoiler.
Now let’s head to Florida, where the boys haven’t beaten the Panthers on the last three visits to Sunrise.
The Leafs gave up the first goal of the game with seventeen seconds left in the first, and Florida skated off with a 1-0 lead. Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo was injured in the first period when he took a shot to the shoulder/neck area, and he was replaced by back-up Al Montoya, who started the second. The Leafs tied it midway through the period on a tally by Tyler Bozak. Shortly thereafter, Belle River’s Aaron Ekblad set a new Florida record for goals by a rookie defenseman when he notched his eleventh of the season. The fella who held the previous record of ten is Windsor native and former Spitfire Ed Jovanovski. Florida led 2-1 after two.
The Buds tied the game 22 seconds into the third on a goal by Nazem Kadri. Then it got strange. Montoya appeared to be injured on the next play and skated off the ice. Eleven minutes later he emerged from the dressing room, noticeably in some discomfort. But he returned to the game, as the Panthers scrambled to find someone else to put on the pads. With an injured Montoya back in goal, and Roberto Luongo in street clothes, Panthers goaltending coach Robb Tallas dressed to back up Montaya. The last time Tallas, 41, played an NHL game was 2001. Aaron Ekblad was four years old. Tallas would not, however, see any action this night because minutes later, Roberto Luongo returned to finish the game. It should be noted that on a late power play, Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier stood tall, and made some big saves to protect the Leafs’ lead. Florida pulled Luongo for the extra attacker, but the Leafs held on to win their first road game since New Year’s Eve, beating the Panthers 3-2. Next up is Tampa on Thursday night.