Don’t bury the Toronto Maple Leafs so quickly. They are still breathing.
Sheldon Keefe’s men managed to extend their season by at least one game, winning the fourth game of this series against the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Wednesday.
Toronto is far from out of the woods, however, and will have to do it again against the Panthers, who lead the series 3-1 on Friday in front of their fans.
“We lost a game. It’s happened to every team so far in the playoffs. We have the opportunity to play another game so it’s good,” said Panthers head coach Paul Maurice.
The Maple Leafs dream of becoming the fifth team to overcome a three-game deficit to win. The Toronto (1942), New York Islanders (1975), Philadelphia Flyers (2010) and Los Angeles Kings (2014) editions were responsible for this rare feat.
This victory allows the Maple Leafs to postpone for the moment a series of existential questions that should arise if the club does not recover from the slope concerning the direction of the team and the status of certain players.
The Leafs avoided a first sweep in a seven-game series since 1979 when they were swept by the Montreal Canadiens.
Expected since the beginning of this series, the important players of the Maple Leafs have finally shown signs of life by scoring important goals. A relief for Leafs fans and the team’s general staff.
The meeting ended in a scuffle behind the Maple Leafs net where the ten players took a few waltz steps full of missteps to discourage the legendary dancer Fred Astaire in addition to exchanging a few blows under the watchful eye of the goalkeeper of Toronto.
After a scoreless first period where you could feel the Maple Leafs tense to say the least, William Nylander put his team ahead with a bit of luck when the puck deflected off a referee in the corner of the rink to end up in front of the Panthers net. Nylander put the puck behind Sergei Bobrovsky on the power play on a penalty to Eetu Luostarinen on assists from Michael Bunting and Mitchell Marner.
That narrow lead lasted until midway through the third as Marner at 10:03 scored his first of this series, his third in the playoffs, when his wrist shot made its way as Ryan O’Reilly serving as a screen in front of Bobrovsky’s cage. His last goal was in Game 2 of the series against Tampa.
Far from hunkering down, the Panthers continued their attacks until Sam Reinhart managed to push gently into the net, the puck that escaped Joseph Woll. We felt a certain panic settle in the Toronto camp, which ordered a time out.
“We had a good run up until that point,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. It was mainly to give our players a break. I didn’t have to say much. ”
Woll did well in his first career playoff start and his 12th overall as Bobrovsky was on his 680th career and 54th in the playoffs.
“Every chance I get with this team is special. Players blocked shots in front of me. We really gave it our all,” Woll summed up.
“He takes things lightly, but his preparation is beyond reproach. We have seen its full potential in recent years. He did a very good job tonight, ”said John Tavares about his goalkeeper.
Both goalies faced 25 shots each.