TORONTO — The Florida Panthers accomplished two things when they held on to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Monday as Rocco Grimaldi tripled his goal output for the season by scoring twice.
The Panthers set a franchise record with 99 points for the season, one more than the 1999-2000 team.
They also clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs after withstanding a furious third-period push by the Maple Leafs, who nearly overcame a 3-0 deficit.
However, the Panthers want more, like first place in the Atlantic Division, which they now lead by four points over the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost to the New York Islanders on Monday.
“It’s not a big deal right now,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of the points record. “In the summertime when the season is over, it’s a big deal because it means you had a good year. We’re close to 100 (points), and that is great, it will be fun. But right now it means nothing.
“We’re trying to get as many points as we can and trying to play as well as we can going in (to the playoffs) and see what happens. It’s good to get the home ice clinched tonight, and the next goal is to try to get first in the division.”
Grimaldi potted both of his goals in the second period. The center entered the game with one goal for the season, which he scored on Nov. 4. He has played much of the season with Portland in the American Hockey League.
Centers Nick Bjugstad and Aleksander Barkov also scored for the Panthers (45-25-9). Florida notched three goals in the second period and gave the Maple Leafs (28-40-11) their third consecutive loss.
Center Colin Greening scored two goals for Toronto, and defenseman T.J. Brennan added one.
“We played a good first two periods and kind of sat on our heels at the end,” Bjugstad said. “We knew they were going to come hard. Those aren’t the kind of games we want to get in at this time of the season. It’s good to get the win, but not the way we want to win obviously.”
Panthers goaltender Al Montoya made 23 saves.
Jonathan Bernier made 32 stops in the Toronto goal.
“I thought we were fine in the first and good in the third, but not near competitive enough in the second by some of our veteran people,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.
The Leafs put the puck into goal at 2:23 of the third period on a shot by Byron Froese, but a challenge by the Panthers claiming interference on the goaltender was upheld, and the score remained 3-0.
Toronto finally scored at 5:50 of the third on a shot from the high slot by Greening. It came with Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson serving an interference penalty.
The Maple Leafs trimmed the lead to one on the first goal of the season by Brennan at 8:54 of the third.
The Panthers countered with the 27th goal of the season by Barkov at 9:30 to regain a two-goal margin at 4-2.
Greening scored his second goal of the game and sixth of the season from the low slot to cut Florida’s lead to one goal again at 11:53 of the third.
“I wish they were at the start of the game instead of at the end of it,” said Greening, who reached 100 career points. “Both goals were great passes by (William) Nylander and (Tyler) Bozak, I guess I was just Johnny on the spot.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on the 14th goal of the season by Bjugstad at 1:34 of the second period. He stuffed home the rebound after Bernier stopped a slap shot by defenseman Aaron Ekblad.
Grimaldi rifled home his first goal of the game from the left faceoff circle at 10:31 of the second period.
Grimaldi scored his second goal of the game and his third of the season on another shot from the left faceoff circle at 13:11 of the second, and the Panthers led 3-0.
The Panthers had a 26-14 advantage in shots on goal after two periods, but the Maple Leafs made a strong run in the third.
“They were coming with some jump there,” Grimaldi said. “Obviously, I’m not happy with the way I finished the game. It happens, and we’ll come back stronger tomorrow. We wanted to clinch a spot in the playoffs and we did, now we want to clinch the division.”
NOTES: Toronto C Nazem Kadri was suspended for four games, the rest of the Maple Leafs’ season, for his crosscheck to the shoulder and head area of C Luke Glendening that earned a two-minute penalty Saturday in a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Kadri finishes with 17 goals and 28 assists for a team-leading 45 points. The Maple Leafs recalled LW Rich Clune from the Marlies of the AHL to replace Kadri. … The Panthers did not play Sunday but clinched a playoff spot when the Boston Bruins lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. … The Leafs play their final home game of the season Wednesday when they meet the Columbus Blue Jackets. … The Panthers play the second game of three straight on the road Tuesday when they visit Montreal to play the Canadiens.