REIMER'S ABSENCE SUDDENLY IN FOCUS

The question hangs precariously in the air with no imminent answer in sight.

James Reimer’s return appears no closer to fruition as the Leafs’ crease continues to wobble in his absence. Ron Wilson was forced to hook his starter for the second consecutive game on Tuesday as the Leafs dropped a 5-1 decision to the Panthers, the first time they’ve lost two games in a row all season – they were thumped 7-0 by the Bruins on Saturday.

Toronto goaltending currently sits third-worst in the NHL (3.37 goals against average, .888 save percentage), struggles that were clearly on display at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night.

Jose Theodore was spectacular with 38 saves for the visiting Panthers, while the duo of Jonas Gustavsson and Ben Scrivens leaked five goals on 28 shots.

“Their goalie made a number of big saves and unfortunately we didn’t get a save and that kind of sunk us,” said Wilson, following the Leafs second regulation loss at home this season. “We’ve got to shore up our goaltending obviously but play the way we did tonight and more often than not, the puck will go in the net.”

A dominant final two periods – the Leafs outshot the Panthers 31-14 – yielded little in the way of results, capped by a deflating spurt in the middle frame.

Florida scored twice in a 19-second span on two plays that could hardly be considered scoring chances. A bouncing puck that skipped past Gustavsson behind the Leafs net keyed Marco Sturm for the Panthers second goal with Tomas Kopecky (they led 1-0 after the first) adding another seconds later, his shot innocently deflecting off the stick of John-Michael Liles and past the glove of the 26-year-old Swede. Scrivens took over from that point, but fared no better in relief, yielding two goals on just seven shots.

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