SUNRISE, Fla. -- Mats Sundin is mired in a scoring slump, but the Maple Leafs captain was feeling relief last night.
With another strong performance by goalie Andrew Raycroft, the Leafs gutted out their fourth road win in a row and completed a sweep of the Sunshine State with a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers in a half-empty BankAtlantic Center.
"It seems like we have gone the whole year without winning games like this, these two games here," said Sundin, whose seven games without a goal is his longest of the season. "We haven't stolen a lot of games like you need to. I am not saying the goaltender had to steal one, but sometimes you have to win games where you might not be the best team on the ice."
There's no doubt the Leafs, who visit Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night in their final game before the all-star break, were not the best team on the ice in the final half. After building a 3-0 lead through two periods, Toronto hung on for life in the third.
Raycroft, who was acrobatic with 21 saves in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, made 39 saves while his mates managed just 19 shots on Alex Auld and Ed Belfour. Raycroft snared a Nathan Horton shot in the third after the Panthers' Gregory Campbell and Ville Peltonen were credited with goals that went in off Bryan McCabe and Jeff O'Neill, respectively.
"We kept them to the outside and I would rather have those than 15 tough ones," said Raycroft, who has been great after getting shelled against Vancouver on Saturday. "As a goalie, you would rather have those 40 and get into a rhythm, with lots of pucks coming at me than being cold and waiting for something bad to happen."
Boyd Devereaux, Chad Kilger and John Pohl scored as Toronto improved its road record to 12-8-3. The Leafs are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points.
Defenceman Pavel Kubina was cut for 10 stitches near his right eye after getting hit by a Martin Gelinas slaps shot, but returned for the third period.
After the Leafs went up 3-0, the Panthers started to attack with more enthusiasm because they had no choice and the Leafs became flustered behind their own blue line. Gelinas had a goal called off with 28.6 seconds left in regulation when he banged the puck in with his glove.
"The last 30 minutes of the game was as bad as we have played in a long time," Kilger said. "They really took it to us and we seemed to panic. Luckily, (Raycroft) played great and he stole two points."
But with injuries to key players, coach Paul Maurice was not about to pick his club apart too much.
"When we started to suffer these injuries, I thought we had to get to the all-star break in the (playoff) fight and we had to survive it," Maurice said. "(If) we can win against Pittsburgh, then we have absolutely survived it and did more than I thought we would do. I thought we were going to have to scratch and claw to get close to .500 in January. We have been a little better than that so it is a good thing."