Panthers try to keep recent surge going vs. Maple Leafs

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Updated: December 17, 2013

(SportsNetwork.com) – The suddenly-surging Florida Panthers will take aim at a
fourth consecutive victory when they visit the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs
for Tuesday’s clash at Air Canada Centre.

With wins in each of its past three outings, Florida is on its longest winning
streak of the season. The club also has earned victories in five of its last
six outings, giving the Panthers a 9-8-1 record since firing head coach Kevin
Dineen in early November and replacing him with interim coach Peter Horachek.

Despite the recent surge Florida is still sitting seventh out of eight teams
in the Atlantic Division, where it trails sixth-place Ottawa by five points.

All three wins on Florida’s current streak have come by one-goal margins. The
Panthers earned consecutive home shootout wins over Detroit and Washington
before beginning a four-game road trip with Sunday’s 2-1 regulation triumph
over Montreal.

Scott Clemmensen made 17 saves for a Panthers team that survived a frantic
finish to earn the recent win against the Canadiens. Florida entered the third
period with a 2-0 lead, but Alex Galchenyuk scored a power-play goal 2:28 into
the third period to cut the deficit in half. However, the Panthers were able
to hold on the rest of the way to notch their first three-game winning streak
since March 28-April 2 of last season.

Jesse Winchester and Nick Bjugstad both scored in the second period for
Florida.

“That was a pretty concerted effort to keep the puck out of our end,” said
Panthers head coach Peter Horachek. “You saw the character there when they’re
blocking shots. That’s when you know your team is doing the right kind of
thing.”

The close victory improved Florida’s road record this season to 5-10-2. The
Panthers will continue the swing Thursday in Ottawa before completing the trip
the following night in Winnipeg.

Jonathan Huberdeau missed Sunday’s game due to a bruised foot and last
season’s Calder Trophy winner is questionable for the Panthers on Tuesday.
Defenseman Erik Gudbranson also could miss tonight’s tilt with a lower-body
injury suffered in Sunday’s win.

Florida will try to halt a three-game losing streak in the series against
Toronto. The Maple Leafs have claimed three of the last five encounters at Air
Canada Centre.

Although Toronto posted an impressive 7-3 win in Saturday’s home game against
Chicago, the Maple Leafs lost for the fourth time in five tilts with Monday’s
3-1 setback in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal with 6:03 to
play for the Penguins, who beat Toronto despite playing without Evgeni Malkin,
James Neal and Kris Letang.

Morgan Rielly scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs, while Jonathan Bernier
allowed two goals on 30 shots in the loss.

“I don’t think we played well in the first period, but we seemed to get our
skating together in the second period,” said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle.
“But in the third period we made some mistakes and it cost us the game.”

Toronto fell to 6-8-3 on the road after Monday’s loss, but the club is kicking
off a three-game stay at Air Canada Centre tonight and is 11-7-0 as the host
this season. The Leafs will play five of six games on home ice to close out
December.