SUNRISE, Fla. – Niklas Hagman really heated up on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ swing through the Sunshine State.
Hagman and Phil Kessel each scored two goals to lift the Maple Leafs to a 6-4 victory over the Florida Panthers on Friday night.
Alexei Ponikarovsky had a goal and three assists, Matt Stajan added an empty-netter with four seconds remaining, and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 26 shots for Toronto (6-11-7).
With his two goals Friday night and the two he scored against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, Hagman has six goals in four games.
“It’s nice to have a streak like this,” Hagman said. “I’ve been fortunate when I am getting chances I manage to put it in. You don’t want to think about it too much.”
Dmitry Kulikov scored twice for Florida (10-10-4), and Radek Dvorak and Michael Frolik had goals early in the first period. Tomas Vokoun made 27 saves for the Panthers, who have lost three straight.
“For us, four goals has to be enough to win,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said. “We didn’t do enough tonight, keeping the puck out of our own end, as a group, to deserve a win.”
Hagman beat Vokoun with a shot at 12:26 in the third period to make it 5-4 and give the Maple Leafs, coming off a 4-3 victory over the Lightning, their first lead.
“Maybe the worm is finally turning for us,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “We’ve been out-shooting everybody and we’ve got a couple of really confident guys in (Kessel) and Hagman, who have just found a way to get in the net.”
Kulikov scored on the power play at 4:07 in the third to put the Panthers up 4-3, but Kessel again tied the game 13 seconds later with his eighth goal of the season.
Kulikov put the Panthers up 3-2 with his first goal of the night at 8:11 in the second period. Nathan Horton fed the puck to Kulikov, and he sent a slapshot by Gustavsson to snap a 2-2 tie. But with 5:27 left in the second, Ponikarovsky tied the game again with a power-play goal.
The Maple Leafs had evened the score 2-2 with Hagman’s first goal of the night at 2:30 in the second period. Hagman took a pass from Ponikarovsky and tipped in the puck. Kessel’s first goal of the night came with 7:43 left in the first period. He beat defenceman Keith Ballard then put the puck past Vokoun to make it 2-1.
“It’s not the best start with the early goals but we came back strongly and I had some more saves to show my teammates I’m not quitting,” Gustavsson said. “We came back and scored a lot of goals and that helped.”
Dvorak opened the scoring at 1:11 in the first period. About a minute later, at 2:04 in the first, Michael Frolik added a power-play goal to make it 2-0.
“You don’t want to get down two goals in the first three minutes but it could have been as lot worse the way it was going,” Wilson said.
NOTES: Florida assigned D Ville Koistinen to Rochester (AHL). Koistinen, who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers this summer, has appeared in 17 games for Florida this season, scoring one goal. … Panthers C Gregory Campbell, who is recovering from an upper-body injury, was scratched. … Florida’s Steve MacIntyre, who was recalled from Rochester earlier this week, got in his second fight this week. MacIntyre tussled with Toronto R Colton Orr in the first period after fighting the New York Rangers’ Donald Brashear on Wednesday night.