Belfour, Roberts have good nights as Florida hammers Toronto 7-3

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Goalie Ed Belfour made 33 saves in his return while Gary Roberts scored three goals as the Florida Panthers handed the Maple Leafs an ugly 7-3 loss. Rostislav Olesz, Ville Peltonen, Martin Gelinas and Joel Kwiatkowski also scored for Florida (12-18-6).

Jeff O'Neill, Tomas Kaberle and Carlo Colaiacovo replied for the Maple Leafs (16-14-5), who looked nothing like the team that hammered the New York Rangers 9-2 on Saturday night.

It was a pretty sight for Belfour, who spent three seasons in Toronto before having his contract bought out over the summer. Many of the 19,444 in attendance cheered when his name was announced for his first start at the ACC in a Panthers uniform.

The fans were then quickly given a chance to cheer against Belfour when O'Neill beat him on Toronto's first shot of the game. The Leafs winger walked out from the corner and slid the puck under Belfour's glove at 2:51, giving O'Neill a point in six of his past seven games.

Some in the seats behind Belfour sarcastically chanted his name but it was Eddie the Eagle who would get the last laugh. He made a diving stop on Leafs captain Mats Sundin and turned away Darcy Tucker's one-timer from the side of the goal during a Toronto power play.

It was the last time all night that it looked like the Maple Leafs even had a chance to win.

Olesz soon tied it 1-1 at 16:00 of the first after Leafs defencemen Hal Gill and Ian White were unable to clear a loose puck from in front of the goal.

Roberts punched the air three minutes later after tipping a shot by Andrew Raycroft and Peltonen made it 3-1 by stripping Gill of the puck and beating Raycroft on a breakaway with seven seconds left in the first.

Gill was again the victim 28 seconds into the second when Roberts intercepted a pass from the big defenceman and blasted a hard shot over Raycroft's shoulder.

Roberts, 40, played in Toronto from 2000 until 2004 and expressed his desire to be traded back here over the summer, but Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson didn't work out a deal with the Panthers.

After power-play goals by Gelinas and Kwiatkowski in the second, Roberts completed his hat trick at 6:36 of the third.

It was vintage Roberts. Standing directly in front of J.S. Aubin, who replaced Raycroft after the second, the feisty forward had the puck sneak in after bouncing off his body.

It was his first three-goal game since Dec. 6, 2001, when he was a member of the Maple Leafs.

Notes: Sundin and Leafs forward Michael Peca were each assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play in the third. Peca was also given a game misconduct . . . Belfour hasn't spoken to the media since being in goal for a 4-2 victory over the Maple Leafs on Nov. 2 . . . It was Toronto forward Matt Stajan's 23rd birthday . . . Belfour won 93 games, lost 65 and tied 11 as a Maple Leaf . . . Toronto plays at Chicago on Friday. The last time they did that was February 2003.


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