By Dave Joseph and wire reports for floridapanthers.com
Bryan McCabe took a shot late Tuesday evening that reverberated from Toronto to South Florida.
McCabe, who spent eight sometimes tumultuous seasons as a Maple Leaf, capped a dramatic Panther comeback at Air Canada Centre when he scored at 3:30 of overtime to give the Panthers a 4-3 victory and another huge two points in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"I was just thinking hit the net - don't miss or else they're going the other way," McCabe said. "I got lucky, you know? I'll take it."
Down 3-1 going into third period, Cory Stillman scored a power play goal with :53 remaining in regulation to tie the game at three and send it into overtime. Then, with only 1:30 left in overtime, McCabe took a pass from Nathan Horton skating into the Maple Leaf zone and blasted a shot at goalie Vesa Toskala. The Maple Leaf goalie got a piece of McCabe’s shot, but the puck slowly trickled behind him to set off a Panther celebration.
“It was really special to get a goal like that,” said McCabe, who tossed his stick into the stands after being named the game’s No. 1 star.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” said Stephen Weiss, who had a goal and two assists and was the first to tackle McCabe after the game-winning goal.
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"It just snuck through under my arm," Toskala said. "I thought I was in a good position and ready to make a save, but it just went through."
It was a huge win for the Panthers, who were without leading scorer David Booth and goalie Tomas Vokoun, both battling the flu. McCabe’s goal and the victory was the Panthers first this season after trailing after two periods of play.
Goalie Craig Anderson, filling in for Vokoun, made 31 saves including a huge stop on Nik Antropov in the third period.
Niklas Hagman, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Antropov had Toronto's goals.
"We did enough things to have won the game," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. "But unfortunately we didn't."
Hagman put Toronto ahead at 10:52 of the first period. He slipped the puck between Horton's legs, outmuscled Jassen Cullimore to work his way to the front of the goal and slid it around Anderson for his 14th goal of the season.
"To be honest, I thought I lost it a couple times so I would call it a little bit of luck," he said.
The Panthers briefly tied it when Campbell sent a rebound past Toskala at 18:53, but Ponikarovsky quickly restored the advantage. He converted a rebound with less than 20 seconds to play in the frame after Jason Blake had a wraparound attempt stopped.
Antropov made it 3-1 with a rebound goal early in the second period.
Weiss narrowed Toronto's lead 2:21 into the third after taking a great cross-ice pass from Stillman.
The Panthers nearly tied it a few minutes later but Karlis Skrastins had his point shot ring loudly off the post.
Notes: Florida improved to 8-2-4 since Jan. 1. ... Leafs defenseman Mike Van Ryn played his first game against the Panthers since they traded him over the summer. ... Ryan Hollweg was scratched from Toronto's lineup for the ninth straight game.
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