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Leafs resume homestand against Panthers
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs will try to continue a three- game homestand with a second straight victory when they welcome the Florida Panthers for Thursday's Atlantic Division battle at Air Canada Centre.
The Maple Leafs lost the final two tilts on a four-game road trip before notching a 3-2 regulation win Tuesday against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the seventh victory in nine games (7-1-1) for Toronto, which is currently in third place in the Atlantic, one point ahead of the rival Montreal Canadiens.
James van Riemsdyk recorded the tie-breaking goal with 4:03 remaining in the third period to lift the Maple Leafs to the close win over the Lightning. Van Riemsdyk's tally came after Tampa scored twice late in the second period to rally from a 2-0 deficit created by a pair of Nazem Kadri markers.
Jonathan Bernier did more than his share between the pipes, turning back 40 shots, including all 13 he faced during the final period.
The deciding goal was set up by a takeaway in the Tampa Bay zone by Tyler Bozak, who worked the puck out to Phil Kessel as van Riemsdyk skated hard into the right slot. Kessel promptly found his open linemate for a quick wrister that Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop had little chance to defend.
"Bozie did a great job on the forecheck and forcing their (defense) to make a play under pressure, and Phil slid (the puck) over to me and put it on a platter for me," said van Riemsdyk of the goal.
The win pushed Toronto's home record to 18-10-1 this season. The Leafs will cap their current homestand in Saturday's game against Ottawa.
Toronto could be without defenseman Tim Gleason tonight after he injured his shoulder crashing into the boards on Tuesday. Gleason, who has one goal and one assists in 12 games since coming over to the Leafs in a trade with Carolina, did not practice on Wednesday and is questionable for tonight.
Florida, which is eight points out of a playoff spot in the East, lost for the second time in three games in Tuesday's 6-2 blowout loss in Boston. The game marked Tim Thomas' first game back in Boston and it did not go well for the former Bruins goaltender.
Thomas gave up six goals on 41 shots in Florida's lopsided loss to the Bruins. The 39-year-old Thomas played for Boston for eight seasons (2002-03 & 2005-12), leading the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup while earning the Conn Smythe Trophy. He also won a pair of Vezina Trophies during his tenure with the Bruins.
Tuesday marked Thomas' first game in Boston since his departure from the Bruins after the 2011-12 season. He played against Boston on Oct. 17, 2013, at BB&T Center, but was injured when the Panthers visited the Bruins a few weeks later.
"They're a good team," Thomas said. "They made the (Cup) Finals last year for a reason and they played a good game against us tonight combined with us not playing our best game, myself included, they took advantage of it and they just kept coming at us."
Brad Boyes and Dmitry Kulikov scored for the Panthers, who lost for the sixth straight time against Boston.
Florida has won three straight on the road before Tuesday's setback. The club is 11-14-3 overall as the guest this season and will cap a four-game road trip Saturday in Columbus.
The Panthers recorded a 3-1 win in Toronto on Dec. 17, ending a three-game losing streak in this series. Florida has claimed three of the past four encounters at Air Canada Centre.
01/30 10:55:07 ET