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Florida Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov tries to get to a rebound in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs net during the first period at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., on Feb. 20, 2018.John E. Sokolowski

There are 10 years separating Roberto Luongo and Frederik Andersen on their birth certificates. But on the ice the difference was paper-thin in favour of Andersen.

The Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender won a duel with Luongo, 38, and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night to lead the way in a 1-0 decision. Andersen, 28, made 40 saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season, the second-most in the NHL. Luongo stopped 30 shots.

"Every night we know we have a chance to win because we have [Andersen] back there," said forward James van Riemsdyk, whose 25th goal of the season allowed the Leafs to ride out a win. "Obviously there are going to be some times we're not playing as well as we'd like to but he's a pretty good safety net for us."

No one had to tell Luongo anything about Andersen. After the morning skate, the veteran NHLer said he thought Andersen played his way into the upper tier of NHL goaltenders this season.

"It's nice. Obviously, he has been around for a long time and seen a lot of good goalies," Andersen said. "That's cool to get some praise from him. Other than that, it doesn't mean too much at this point. You want to keep pushing and keep playing well."

Luongo and Andersen traded saves through the first 40 minutes as the Leafs took a 1-0 lead into the third period. Neither goaltender was called upon to make any spectacular saves but both were sharp when they needed to be.

But it was Andersen's work in the third period that brought the win to the Leafs. The Panthers pressed hard, outshooting the Leafs 15-5 but could not put a dent in Andersen.

"He makes it easy for us, plays the puck great," Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner said of Andersen, who is in his second full season as the Leafs' No. 1 goaltender. "I think he's getting a lot more comfortable, starting have more of a leadership role. He's a quiet guy but I think he's being more vocal this year."

The game also showed the Leafs are starting to get a handle on how to grind out wins in close games. A year ago, this group would more than likely have coughed up the lead in the third period.

"Yeah, it starts with Freddy, that's always key," Gardiner said. "The group last year tended to give away leads a lot more than we did this year. We learned from that. Our decision-making is a lot better in those high-risk areas."

A particular thorn in Luongo's side was the Nazem Kadri line, which was once again flying high. Twice, Kadri and left winger Patrick Marleau had a two-on-one rush in the second period, although they were denied both times.

On the first one, midway through the second period, Kadri made a nice move to get by Panthers defenceman Keith Yandle to start the odd-man rush. Then he made a perfect pass to Marleau, who was streaking down the left side. But Marleau missed the net on his shot. A couple of minutes later, they were back, with Kadri electing to throw the puck at the net this time. Luongo kicked out a rebound and Marleau could not get a handle on it.

The Leafs started the game slowly, with the Panthers keeping Andersen busy. As the halfway mark of the period approached, the Panthers held a 9-1 advantage in shots on goal. But the Leafs picked up the pace at that point and pushed Luongo into bailing out his Panthers teammates.

As in the second period, the best plays seemed to involve the Leafs missing the net. In this case, it was Leafs winger Kasperi Kapanen once again showing off his speed. He is making a habit of leaving defencemen flat-footed and it happened again at centre ice when Kapanen split the Florida defence. Gardiner timed his pass perfectly, catching Kapanen in full flight, and he went in alone on Luongo only to miss the net with his shot.

The Leafs kept the heat on for the rest of the period and were rewarded in the final minute. Centre Tyler Bozak found van Riemsdyk in the left faceoff circle and his shot along the ice got under Luongo. It was van Riemsdyk's 25th goal of the season and his fifth in his last seven games. Gardiner drew the second assist for his 200th career point to squelch some static coming from fellow defenceman Morgan Rielly.

"Mo was chirping me before the game," Gardiner said. "He said, 'You got 199, try and get 200 tonight.' It's always fun to get something like that."

The Leafs made some news before the game with their second minor trade in as many weeks that opened more roster space in advance of Monday's NHL trade deadline. They sent centre Eric Fehr, who was on loan to the American Hockey League's San Diego Gulls, to the San Jose Sharks for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL entry draft. Last week, they dealt extra forward Nikita Soshnikov to the St. Louis Blues for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft.

This leaves the Maple Leafs with 48 contracts, two under the NHL limit, which opens some roster space for any trades. This does not guarantee any moves but clearing the decks keeps their options open if something presents itself.

Van Riemsdyk, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, has been the subject of trade rumours for two consecutive seasons now. When Leafs head coach Mike Babcock was asked if van Riemsdyk's scoring of late makes it an easy decision to keep him, his answer raised some eyebrows.

"I don't think anything is an easy decision," Babcock said. "We've talked about this a bunch. You always have this plan but your plan can always change. It depends on what people want.

"There's lots of times you're going through and not planning on doing anything and you end up doing something. We don't really know, in the end, what's available and what we could pursue either. The way I look at it is, instead of worrying about that stuff, you just keep playing good and give ourselves the best opportunity. Then, whatever is best for our team, [GM Lou Lamoriello] will do."

Snowboarder Mark McMorris says he’s less stressed about competition after a crash left him with life-threatening injuries last March. McMorris captured bronze in Olympic slopestyle on Sunday, while teammate Max Parrot won silver.

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