Maple Leafs beat Panthers 6-2
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares reacts to scoring a goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Michael Laughlin)
George Richards, The Associated Press
Published Thursday, March 23, 2023 10:30PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 23, 2023 10:44PM EDT
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Brothers Eric and Marc Staal of the Florida Panthers declined to wear special Pride-themed warmup jerseys ahead of the team's 6-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
The jerseys were part of Florida's Pride night game in support of the area's LGBTQ community, and the brothers cited their religion as the reason for their decision.
“We carry no judgement on how people choose to live their lives, and believe that all people should be welcome in all aspects of the game of hockey,” the Staal brothers said in a statement. “Having said that, we feel that by us wearing a Pride jersey it goes against our Christian beliefs.”
While the Staal brothers declined to participate, Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was one of the Panthers who went ahead with the Pride-themed jerseys.
The Chicago Blackhawks have decided against wearing special warmup jerseys to commemorate their Pride night on Sunday, citing an anti-gay Kremlin law that could imperil Russian athletes when they return home. The decision was made by the organization after conversations with its players.
Auston Matthews had two goals for Toronto, and Matt Murray made 33 saves. Mitchell Marner and William Nylander each had a goal and an assist, and John Tavares finished with three assists.
The Maple Leafs won for the third time in four games, bouncing back nicely after a 7-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
Matthew Tkachuk and Nick Cousins scored for the Panthers. Bobrovsky made 21 saves in the team's second straight loss.
Toronto jumped in front when Matthews scored his 33rd goal 5:05 into the first period. Tkachuk tied it at 1 at 14:25 when a replay review determined Murray pulled Tkachuk's odd-angled shot on a power play from over the goal line.
The Maple Leafs went ahead to stay with three goals in the second. Nylander made it 2-1 at 1:20, and Matthews scored again at 2:57.
After Cousins got one back for the Panthers at 11:43, Bunting scored with two Florida players in the penalty box at 18:21. Bunting's 21st goal gave Toronto a 4-2 lead.
The Maple Leafs put the game away with 5:37 remaining when Kerfoot scored off a pass from Tavares. Marner scored into an empty net just over a minute later.
Florida was without C Sam Bennett for the second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury. Bennett left Florida's game at Detroit on Monday in the third period and did not return. Bennett practiced on Thursday morning. ... F Anthony Duclair returned for the Panthers after missing Tuesday's game with an illness.
Maple Leafs: At Carolina on Saturday.
Panthers: Host the New York Rangers on Saturday.