Leafs play for pride versus Panthers

( - With a second straight trip to the postseason officially out of their reach, the Toronto Maple Leafs will play for pride when they visit the Florida Panthers in Thursday's matchup at BB&T Center.

Toronto was mathematically eliminated from playoff consideration following Tuesday's loss against Tampa Bay. It was the club's 10th loss in 12 games and the setback knocked the Maple Leafs out of the playoffs for the eight time in nine seasons.


The Maple Leafs were second in the Atlantic Division as of Mar. 13 but spiraled into a 2-10 slump, with none of the losses coming in overtime. Entering Tuesday's game, they stood three points back of Columbus for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their loss, coupled with the Blue Jackets' overtime win over Phoenix on Tuesday, ended Toronto's 2014 postseason dreams.

"Not in shock," said Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said. "I guess the words to describe it would be extremely disappointed, shallow, embarrassed. All those things. I think we have more than what we were able to accomplish, and that's the most troubling issue here. We just didn't find a way to compete to a level that was necessary."


Toronto was shut out 3-0 by the Lightning on Tuesday, marking the first time the Leafs were blanked since a 6-0 rout against a visiting Columbus club on Nov. 25.

James Reimer stopped 31-of-33 shots for Toronto, but fell to 1-7-0 over his last eight starts.

Tuesday's tilt was the first of three straight on the road for Toronto. The Leafs, who are 14-18-7 as the guest in 2013-14, will complete their season Saturday in Ottawa.

The Panthers have long since been eliminated from the playoffs and the club enters its penultimate game of the season having lost six of seven games.

Florida halted a five-game slide with Sunday's win over visiting Dallas, but was handed a 5-2 setback Tuesday night by the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. The road victory clinched a playoff spot for the Flyers.

Claude Giroux scored twice to help Philadelphia pick up the big win, while Florida netminder Dan Ellis gave up all five goals on 27 shots, and was beat four times during a rough second period.

"In the second period I just let in four [bad] goals," said Ellis. "It's unacceptable, it's frustrating as heck. You're one of the primary reasons for the loss. I take responsibility for that loss. I can't let two pucks go right through me."


Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson lit the lamp for the Panthers, who lost for the ninth time in 11 games.

Florida is playing the fourth part of a season-ending five-game homestand on Thursday. The Panthers, who will host Columbus in their season finale on Saturday, are just 15-19-5 as the host.


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