Panthers-Leafs: Bryan McCabe Showered with Boos as Toronto Doused 4-2

Dino MoriAnalyst IJanuary 6, 2009

The boo birds weren't solely for returning blueliner Bryan McCabe.

Maple Leafs fans had plenty of other reasons to voice their displeasure, as Toronto looked listless in a 4-2 loss to the visiting Florida Panthers

McCabe made his first appearance back at the Air Canada Center since being dealt last September for Mike Van Ryn and a fourth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

To no one's surprise, Bryan was showered with boos each time he touched the puck.  The former partner to Tomas Kaberle for seven seasons became the favourite whipping boy for many disgruntled Leafs last season.

The St. Catharines native was traded for Van Ryn after his offensive numbers fell dramatically in 2007-08.  McCabe scored only five goals in 54 games last year, after registering 34 markers in 155 games during the previous two campaigns. 

And who can remember McCabe's catastrophic blunder in Buffalo last October, when he scored in his own net with 3.7 seconds to go in overtime to hand the Sabres a 5-4 win?

From that point on and given Bryan's $5-million price tag, it became easy for Leaf fans to loathe him.

After Toronto-born Stephen Weiss put the Panthers ahead 1-0 on a Florida power play, Toronto responded on its next shift to register their first shot against Tomas Vokoun.  Dominic Moore made a pretty spin move past a Florida defenseman, but his backhand was turned aside by Vokoun.

To that point, the Leafs were out-shot by an 11-0 margin.

The Panthers continued to apply pressure in the Leafs end and went up by two at 17:38.  Ville Peltonen wristed home a Gregory Campbell feed past fellow Finnish native, Toskala.

The Panthers were clearly the better team in the first period, ahead in shots, 16-8, and on the score sheet, 2-0. 

Florida nearly made it 3-0 halfway through the second period, but Anthony Stewart was stopped on a partial breakaway by Toskala.  On the rush, Leafs diminutive forward, Mikhail Grabovski, was draped all over Stewart, trying to atone from a glaring giveaway at the Florida end.

Michael Frolik did make it 3-0 for Florida, converting a pass from Weiss at 14:18. The Leafs defense, especially Kaberle, was particularly soft on the play, allowing the Panthers winger to gain the zone with relative ease.  Frolik's shot appeared to handcuff a prone Toskala. 

Toronto was again out-shot in the second period by a count of 8-7, and 26-15 after 40 minutes.

Toronto finally dented the armor of Vokoun and cut the deficit to 3-1 early in the third period.  Alexei Ponikarovsky scored his 13th goal of the year on the power play at 4:43, with Nik Antropov and John Mitchell earning assists.

The Leaf euphoria was short-lived however, as Campbell tipped home a Jay Bouwmeester point shot to make it 4-1 for Florida.  Campbell was screening Toskala on the play, as yet again another Florida forward was allowed free access around the Leafs net.

With Moore in the penalty box for tripping, teammate Jason Blake roared to the net and scored shorthanded as Toronto closed to within 4-2.  It was Blake's 10th goal on the season and fourth in the past seven games.  He had 15 goals all of last year.

On the night, McCabe earned one assist in just under 24 minutes of action, as well as registering three shots on net.  In the game, Florida out-shot Toronto, 34-26.

Toronto now heads out on a two-game road trip with stops in Montreal and Philadelphia on Thursday and Saturday. They'll return to the ACC next Tuesday to host the Nashville Predators.