After the Panthers came to town on Dec. 17 and embarrassingly defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1 at the Air Canada Centre, it didn’t look like Toronto was determined to avenge the loss at the start of the rematch. Florida quickly took a two-goal lead, making it look like history was about to repeat before Toronto scored five straight to remove any doubt who’d emerge victorious in the contest.
The Maple Leafs’ 6-3 victory over the Panthers not only avenged a previous loss it was also a necessary win for the club. Toronto couldn’t afford to lose to Florida given how tight the Eastern Conference standings are. If the Maple Leafs truly want to earn a playoff spot they couldn’t afford to lose on their home ice for the second straight time to the second-worst team in the conference. Had Toronto lost, they would have been passed by the Montreal Canadiens in the standings after the Canadiens had an impressive 4-1 victory on the road over the Boston Bruins.
The win also puts the Maple Leafs just three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for second in the Atlantic Division, proving that although the win may be against the lowly Panthers the two points provided by the victory have a significant impact in the standings.
The night couldn’t have gone much better for the Maple Leafs as they avenged a previous embarrassing defeat and gained ground in their climb up the Atlantic Division.