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Leafs Blow Past Panthers

Yanic Perreault knows he can never replace Mats Sundin. He did a pretty good imitation of the Toronto Maple Leafs' top player on Wednesday night, though.

Perreault deflected a point shot by Danny Markov on a power play with 5:37 remaining to give the Maple Leafs a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers.

It was Perreault's first goal of the season and broke a 2-2 tie with the Panthers, who were without star right wing Pavel Bure, nursing a strained groin.

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  • "I just wanted to crash the net and maybe screen the goalie," said Perreault, playing with forwards Steve Thomas and Jonas Hoglund on Toronto's top line in the wake of Sundin's injury.

    "Luckily, Danny's shot hit my stick and deflected into the opposite corner."

    Hoglund and Tomas Kaberle also scored for Toronto. Rookie Ivan Novoseltsev, playing in his first NHL game, scored both goals for Florida.

    The loss was the first of the season for the Panthers, now 3-1-1-0. The win improved Toronto's record to 4-2-0-0 and ended a two-game losing streak.

    "It was an important win for a number of reasons," said Toronto coach Pat Quinn, alluding to the fact the Maple Leafs will be without Sundin for another six weeks. "We battled all night."

    "We didn't create a lot of easy chances, but we got challenged and we won the game."

    Perreault, who assisted on Hoglund's second-period goal and now has six points in six games, said he's not bothered by earlier reports that he's on the trading block due to an abundance of offensive cnters in Toronto and an arbitration ruling that gave him a salary more than the Maple Leafs were interested in paying.

    "I'm just going to play the game," he said. "I won't worry about the rest of that stuff."

    With Bure and Sundin out, Novoseltsev scored the opening and go-ahead goals for Florida and almost stole the spotlight. Recalled earlier in the day from the Louisville AHL farm club, Novoseltsev said he couldn't sleep after learning he'd be making his NHL debut against the Maple Leafs.

    "I caught a 7:55 flight this morning, got in about noon, and really felt great," said the 20-year-old Russian, who scored 57 goals and 96 points in 68 OHL games with the Sarnia Sting last season. "I was really excited. It's a great thrill to score twice."

    Linemate Viktor Kozlov had two assists.

    Sundin broke a bone in his right ankle during a 4-3 loss Saturday in Ottawa. Bure strained a groin muscle in Florida's 2-1 win over Montreal on Tuesday.

    "It's just a slight groin strain," said Panthers coach Terry Murray. "But we have to make sure a player is healthy before putting him in the lineup."

    Murray said it's a 50-50 chance whether Bure will return to the lineup Saturday at home against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

    The groin injury is in no way related to the serious knee injury Bure suffered last Feb. 5. He had three goals and six points in his first four games with the Panthers this season.

    Besides Bure, the Panthers were without forwards Scott Mellanby and Peter Worrell. Mellanby suffered a concussion in Montreal, while Worrell has been out all season with a sprained knee.

    Replacing Sundin on the roster was 19-year-old Kazakhstan native Nikolai Antropov, who had one assist on a line with Mike Johnson and Todd Warriner.

    ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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