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Leafs Tame Panthers

Tuesday, 23.12.2003 / 10:58 PM / News
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Leafs Tame Panthers
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December 23, 2003

TORONTO (AP) -- The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't led the league in points this deep into the season since 1962-63.

Gary Roberts scored twice, and the Maple Leafs extended their franchise-record points streak to 15 games with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night.

Nik Antropov added a goal and an assist for the Leafs, who haven't lost in regulation since Nov. 20 at Edmonton. Toronto is 13-0-1-1 during the stretch.

Belfour was a huge lift in goal again for Toronto.
(Graig Abel Photography)

The win and Philadelphia's loss at the New York Islanders, moved Toronto into first place overall in the NHL.

"To be one of the top teams in the league, you need to have four lines playing well and right now we have that going for us," Toronto captain Mats Sundin said.

Just over a month ago, Toronto was only one game over .500 and tied with Buffalo for 11th in the NHL.

The Maple Leafs continued their new tradition of embracing in a group hug after the win.

"Every game somebody else scores," said Karel Pilar, who got his first goal of the season. "I'm happy to be in first."

Pavel Trnka and Kristian Huselius scored for the Panthers, who lost in overtime to Ottawa on Monday night.

Florida goalie Roberto Luongo allowed four goals on 23 shots before being replaced by Steve Shields at the start of the third period.

Shields left the game with 1:47 left after being hit in the face mask with a hard shot.

Toronto goalie Ed Belfour made 29 saves, including an impressive stop on Niklas Hagman, who was alone at the side of the net midway through the second. Fans chanted `Eddie!, Eddie!' throughout.

"You've got to credit Belfour. He made some great saves," Florida coach Rick Dudley said. "When it was a one-goal game, he made some huge saves. We didn't bury our chances, they did."

Roberts streaked toward the net and redirected Sundin's pinpoint pass, giving Toronto a 1-0 lead on the power play.

Pilar's slap shot from the boards made it 2-0 at 14:34 of the second, but Trnka cut the lead to 2-1 just 17 seconds into the second by redirecting a pass from in front of the net.

Roberts scored his second power-play goal at 5:04 of the second, and Antropov's slap shot from the circle gave Toronto a 4-1 lead at 13:50 of the second.

"Gary has made a career of getting those goals in tight. Tonight was no exception," Toronto's Joe Nieuwendyk said.

The Maple Leafs went 2-for-3 on the power-play, and the Panthers went 0-for-2.

Game Notes
Roberts has 13 goals. ... The Maple Leafs haven't lost in regulation since Sundin called a players-only meeting after a five-game winless skid last month. Toronto has taken 28 of a possible 30 points since. ... Florida's Byron Ritchie sent Toronto's Darcy Tucker to the ice during a fight in the second. ... Trnka also had an assist. ... The Panthers have won only one of their past six games.

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