TORONTO (AP) – Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third period and the Toronto Maple Leafs rebounded from their worst loss in nearly 14 years with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Ed Belfour made 31 saves for the Maple Leafs, who lost 8-0 to the rival Ottawa Senators on Saturday night – their most lopsided loss since Dec. 26, 1991, when Pittsburgh beat them 12-1.

Fans booed after Florida’s Gary Roberts needed just 26 seconds to score against his former team and record his first point of the season. After a Toronto turnover, Roberts skated between two defenseman and scored.

Roberts, who spent four memorable years in Toronto, received a loud ovation when his name was announced before the game. The 39-year-old forward made a couple of crushing checks, sending Toronto’s Jeff O’Neill to the ice in the first and Matt Stajan to the ice in the third.

Roberts also slugged O’Neill in the face in the third.

Belfour, who allowed five goals on 15 shots in Saturday’s rout, received a loud ovation when it was announced he earned the games first star. Fans chanted Eddie!, Eddie!’ after made a series of impressive saves in the final minutes.

Darcy Tucker tied it at 1 on the power play at 5:04 of the first. Tucker, alone at the side of the because defenseman Jay Bouwmeester went to cover Kyle Wellwood, scored on a one-timer after a pass from Wellwood.

Ponikarovsky gave Toronto a 2-1 lead at 9:43 of the third by putting a weak wrister between the legs of backup goalie Jamie McLennan.

McLennan – in his third start of the season – earlier robbed Tucker of a goal in the second with a spectacular kick save with Toronto on the power play.

The Panthers emptied their net and added an extra attacker with 1:21 left, but couldn’t score.

Notes: Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin has been cleared to practice. The center’s left orbital bone was fractured when he was struck by a puck Oct. 5 in the season opener against Ottawa. He was re-evaluated Monday and was given the OK to resume practicing with the team beginning Tuesday. … Former Leaf Joe Nieuwendyk didn’t make the trip to Toronto because of back spasms. … Raptors coach Sam Mitchell sat next to Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum.

AP-ES-10-31-05 2203EST


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