Leafs' Orr scores controversial winner
Panthers cry interference
Air Canada Centre — Toronto
Phil Kessel (TOR) — 1 goal, 2 shots
Tyler Bozak (TOR) — 1 goal, 9-for-14 on faceoffs
Dennis Wideman (FLA) — 1 goal, 4 shots
It sure wasn't pretty — nor maybe even legal — but the Leafs will take it.
Toronto tough guy Colton Orr got credit for the go-ahead goal in the third period of Tuesday's 3-1 home win over Florida when a Tim Brent shot went in off his skate as Orr was more or less tackling Panthers netminder Scott Clemmensen.
Though it seemed like a textbook case of goaltender interference, and Clemmensen tried to argue that point with referee Stephen Walkom, the goal was allowed to stand, putting the Maple Leafs ahead with less than nine minutes left in the tight-checking contest.
Orr denied any malicious intent ("I was trying not to make any contact. I was just trying to get out to the front") but even Leafs coach Ron Wilson had to admit the goal shouldn't have counted.
"Colton took the goalie out and it should have been a penalty," said Wilson. "Let's be honest. But they didn't see it, so you take what you can get."
Wilson's counterpart could only lament the outcome.
"It's unfortunate," said Pete DeBoer. "You've got 40 guys battling hard on that ice on both teams. Games shouldn't be decided that way."
Phil Kessel made the debate moot with about 2½ minutes to play with a stellar breakaway effort to put the Leafs up 3-1. Picking up the puck inside his own blue-line, Kessel froze a Panthers defender with a move to the inside, then cut back the other way and outraced his man up ice before beating Clemmensen with a quick shot for his team-leading seventh goal of the season.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Toronto (5-2-1), which scored more than two goals for the first time since its season-opening four-game winning streak ended.
Florida (3-4-0) lost for just the second time in five games.
Toronto's Tyler Bozak scored his first of the season on a power play late in the opening period, and Dennis Wideman had a second-period power-play goal for Florida.
Wideman, like Orr, took advantage of an off-balance goalie. J.S. Giguere got jostled when his right skate made contact with the blade of Florida's Cory Stillman. The goalie never fully recovered, allowing Wideman to beat him from the high slot for his second of the season.
The way Giguere saw it, everything balanced out by the end of the night.
"I thought they should have called mine," said Giguere, who finished with 21 saves. "I'm sure they probably think that they should have called theirs. We're even."
Toronto forward Colby Armstrong left the game after just one shift, heading to the dressing room with an apparent upper-body injury that kept him out for the rest of the night.
Weather concerns blow over
The Leafs' hot start has generated plenty of buzz in Toronto, but much of the conversation around offices Tuesday centred around a looming meteorological phenomenon that threatened to smash southern Ontario with heavy rain and wind while the Leafs and Panthers were playing in the safe confines of the Air Canada Centre.
The so-called "weather bomb" proved to be overblown, weakening before it reached the city as little more than persistent rain.
Leaf fans can only hope their team's fortunes don't follow a similar pattern.
With files from The Canadian Press