As the Year of the Horse begins in the Chinese calendar, the cavalry arrived to relieve the first line of the Maple Leafs and their sweat-stained stopper. After signs in recent games the team would finally address its over-reliance on Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, as well as make life easier on Jonathan Bernier, four goals from three different forwards and a defenceman led Tuesday’s 6-3 rout of the Florida Panthers. Third-period conversions came from Joffrey Lupul and Nikolai Kulemin, while Nazem Kadri bagged three assists, including his 100th National Hockey League point. Coach Randy Carlyle set the tone by starting the night with his third line of Troy Bodie, Peter Holland and Mason Raymond, the latter scoring 27 seconds into the middle period to tie the match. “Naz was the difference maker tonight, probably the best game he’s played at both ends of the rink in a long time,” Carlyle said. “Mason was very visible and Lupes, you’ve all seen him score from that area with his big-league shots. There has been a fit with Kulie as a right winger and Lupes being a better left winger, which is mind-boggling at times because one’s a right shot and one’s a left. “Cody Franson made a mistake (a soft clearing pass that helped Sean Bergenheim give the Cats a 2-0 lead) and then redeemed himself with a rocket off the post and in. Those are the things that uplift your group.” Franson now has two goals in Janaury after going until Dec. 11 without one. “All the top teams in the league have that help from the defence group and we try and do the best we can to make the (top line’s) job easier,” Franson said. There was still ample assistance from van Riemsdyk with a goal and assist, with Kessel getting two assists and using speed to draw the penalty that led to Lupul’s power play goal. There was also a role for Bernier, with 35 saves overall after the shock of two early goals. He’s now on the verge of 20 victories in his first season as a Leaf.
Maple Leafs double up Panthers at home
Toronto Sun | Jan 31