Belfour leads Panthers to 7-3 victory in first start in Toronto since leaving Leafs

Belfour stopped 33 shots to lead the Florida Panthers to a 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, his first appearance here since his contract was bought out by the Maple Leafs.

Belfour was Toronto’s No. 1 goalie for three seasons. The Leafs paid him US$1.5 million to terminate his employment after they missed the playoffs last spring.

The 41-year-old netminder, who didn’t speak to the media prior to the game, made his third consecutive start – a first for the season.

“He’s played very well for us,” Panthers left-winger Gary Roberts, another former Leaf, said of Belfour. “He’s been great lately.

“He’s been healthy, and you know when Eddie’s healthy he’s as competitive as any goalie that’s ever played. You know he wants to have a good game tonight.”

Toronto dropped its record to 16-14-5 in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. Florida improved to 12-18-6 record.

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“Every game, we’ve been right there, but we’ve been finding ways to lose,” said Panthers captain Olli Jokinen. “But there’s a lot of hockey left and, hopefully, we can turn it around.”

The win was Florida’s first in Toronto since March 3, 2003. They came off a 6-3 win Saturday in Boston.

Andrew Raycroft started for Toronto, which lost for the first time in four games. He was replaced by J.S. Aubin following the second.

“It’s irrelevant,” Raycroft replied when asked about playing against Belfour. “It gives everybody a story to talk about, I guess, but it doesn’t mean a thing to me.”

Toronto defenceman Brendan Bell was a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, and centre Nik Antropov missed his sixth consecutive game with a sprained ankle.