TORONTO — Frederik Andersen could sense Tuesday’s game would be a low-scoring affair. He was right, and he was sharp when it counted.
The 28-year-old made 40 saves, leading the Maple Leafs to a 1-0 win over the Florida Panthers.
"These are always fun," Andersen said.
"The game was tough from the beginning. I think the ice was a little tough, it seemed to bounce off the guys’ sticks and could be a low-scoring game where the chances weren’t really coming that often. I had to be sharp."
Andersen improved to 7-0-2 with a 1.82 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and two shutouts this season when facing 40 or more shots.
Opponents are taking note of his elevated game.
"Especially this year, he’s really taken his game to another level," Roberto Luongo said after Tuesday’s morning skate. "Obviously in the top tier of goaltenders in the league now, and he’s giving his team a chance to win every night.
"As a goalie, you look around the league, the best goalies give their teams a chance to win every night and I think that’s what he does."
James van Riemsdyk scored the lone goal for the Maple Leafs (37-20-5), who have won seven straight on home ice. Toronto has won 11 of 12 and improved to 14-4-2 since Jan. 4.
The Panthers (26-25-6) have dropped back-to-back games after opening their five-game road trip with three straight wins. Florida entered the night six points out of a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Luongo stopped 30 shots in the loss.
"I thought both goaltenders were really hot tonight," said Jonathan Huberdeau. "I think in the third we had some pressure, we got a lot of chances, but it didn’t go in. It’s a tough loss."
Florida threatened in the third with Luongo pulled for an extra attacker, but Andersen stopped the Panthers best chance — a point shot from Keith Yandle with 23 seconds remaining.
Andersen has recorded 30 wins in back-to-back seasons for the third time in his career and Tuesday’s shutout was his career-best fifth of the season.
Andersen is the fifth Maple Leafs goaltender to register multiple shutouts when making at least 40 saves since 1955-56 when the NHL began counting shots on goal as an official statistic.
"I think a huge part of it is fitness," said Leafs coach Mike Babcock. "He did a real nice job this summer and so he’s just building off of confidence. I think last year, if I’m not mistaken, was the first time he’s ever really been the starter.
"So, you go through that and you get comfortable and you get comfortable with your teammates and it just goes from there."
Van Riemsdyk opened the scoring with 28 seconds remaining in the first period, beating Luongo between the legs with a shot from the face-off dot for his 25th of the season.
"In a lot of those situations, there’s not a lot of time so you just want to try to get it off as quick as you can," van Riemsdyk said. "To say I was shooting there would probably be a lie, I was just trying to throw it on the net and get it there quick and it went in thankfully."
The Panthers defeated the Maple Leafs 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 22 in the only other meeting between the teams this season. Toronto visits Florida on Feb. 27.
NOTES: The Maple Leafs traded F Eric Fehr to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round pick earlier Tuesday. The move drops Toronto to 48 contracts and gives general manager Lou Lamoriello added flexibility prior to next week’s trade deadline. â€¦ Patrick Marleau (1,555) passed Jarome Iginla for 12th all-time on the NHL’s games played list. â€¦ Panthers D Keith Yandle played in his 800th career game. The 31-year-old owns the NHL’s longest active games streak at 689 games.