Ed Belfour made 23 saves against his former team and Martin picked up his 450th career victory in Florida’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. “I think the satisfaction is for us: we needed this win,” said Martin, the 13th coach to reach the milestone in the NHL. “We’re not playing again until Wednesday. We don’t want to fall too far behind and I think that’s the most important thing.”
Rostislav Olesz and Olli Jokinen scored in the first period, Joel Kwiatkowski scored on a breakaway and Chris Gratton added an empty-net goal with 36.9 seconds left for Florida.
“It’s definitely nice to have a good game against the fellas,” said Belfour, who played the previous three seasons with Toronto. “To come out on top is definitely a bonus.”
Jean-Sebastien Aubin lost for the first time since joining the Maple Leafs in March, dropping to 10-1-3. He made 39 saves and fell to 1-1-1 this season.
Toronto’s Bryan McCabe scored on a slap shot at 7:19 of the third to end Belfour’s shutout bid. It was McCabe’s second goal. Mats Sundin scored his sixth goal at 14:09 of the third.
“We didn’t have the legs Florida had,” Sundin said. “We were playing back-to-back, and Florida was sitting there waiting, and they were the desperate team needing points. We needed to match that, but we waited until the third period and you can’t do that in this league.”
Florida lost the previous six meetings dating to March 9, 2004, while being outscored 21-10 overall. The Panthers were coming off a shootout loss against the New York Islanders and a one-goal home loss against San Jose.
“When you’re on the road, you need to play smart on those nights when you don’t have the edge,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. “We didn’t have the edge tonight, and we didn’t play smart.”
Kwiatkowski scored unassisted on a breakaway down the left side at 3:19 of the third to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead. It was Kwiatkowski’s third goal.
“You don’t get breakaways every day, and you just try to keep it simple,” Kwiatkowski said.
Goals by Olesz and Jokinen gave Florida a 2-0 lead after one period. The Panthers took 23 shots, a season high for a period.
Olesz scored his first goal, at 1:07, when he backhanded in the rebound of Ruslan Salei’s shot from the right point. Jokinen scored his sixth goal when he one-timed a cross-ice pass from Nathan Horton at 10:03.
Notes: Jokinen has 13 points in seven home games. … Toronto has played back-to-back games three times this season, and has split all three times. The Maple Leafs won at Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. … Florida right wing Todd Bertuzzi underwent lower back surgery and will be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days. … Martin’s career coaching mark is 450-347-119-33.