Leafs make point but drop shootout to Panthers

SUNRISE, FLA.—It took 100 games, but Mitch Marner finally got to start with Auston Matthews.

But the hoped-for offence sputtered — not just with those two — and in the end the Maple Leafs had goalie Frederik Andersen to thank for earning a point in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers.

“He’s a great player to play with,” Marner, the latest impressive sophomore to reach the century mark in games played, said of Matthews. “So are a lot of guys on this team. Obviously we didn’t come out with the result we wanted to. So it’s time to focus on Carolina (on Friday) and make sure we come away with two points.”

Marner and Matthews have played parts of the last two games together, but the Leafs generated just a single goal in each. That line is not the problem — Matthews had eight shots on goal.

The issue is slow starts, which again backed the team into a corner. The Leafs started flat and could barely generate any offence, and waited for the third period to truly come to life.

Nick Bjugstad scored the opening goal on a lucky bounce in the second period and notched the shootout winner, the only blemishes for Andersen, who faced 42 shots.

“It trickled through me,” Andersen said of Bjugstad’s second-period marker that came from behind the net and deflected off defenceman Connor Carrick. “You have to expect the unexpected. We battled back and got a point.”