Toronto — Nick Cousins scored at 15:32 of overtime and Sergei Bobrovsky's 50 saves helped the Florida Panthers advance to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series on Friday.
Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verheeghe each had a goal and an assist to help the Panthers take a 2–0 lead in the first period.
Morgan Riley and William Nylander scored for the Maple Leafs, who advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years when they defeated Tampa Bay in the first round. Rookie goaltender Joseph Woll made 41 saves in his first home playoff start.
In the extra period, Cousins buried his second goal of the playoffs off a rush short-side at Vol to send the Panthers to the conference finals for the first time since 1996.
Florida – the team with the fewest points to qualify for the season – won all three games in Toronto and improved to 6–1 on the road in the playoffs after upsetting the record-setting Boston Bruins. The Panthers will next face the Carolina Hurricanes, who also defeated the New Jersey Devils in five games.
Voll was coming off a 24-save effort in the Game 4 victory that narrowly avoided the sweep.
Despite their success against the Lightning, the Maple Leafs now face an uncertain off-season. general manager Kyle Dabas There is no contract beyond June 30, while there is also speculation about the future of coach Sheldon Keefe. Nylander and Auston Matthews both have one year left on their contracts and fellow star forward could sign extensions until July 1 Mitch Marner's no-movement clause expires that day.
Toronto's high-powered offense – consisting of Matthews, Nylander, Marner and the so-called “core four” John Tavares – Scored just three times in the series for a team that scored just 14 goals in its last seven playoff games, including 10 against the Panthers.
The Maple Leafs finished the post-season 1–5 at home.
Florida went up 1–0 on the power play at 3:31 of the opening period when Ekblad blasted a one-timer for his first shot after an early stop by the goaltender that handcuffed Voll.
The Maple Leafs pushed back and had some great chances on a pair of man advantage, but could not solve Bobrovsky.
Verheeghe got his fifth on his own one-timer with 3:42 left in the first after Toronto defenseman Timothy Liljegren fumbled the puck over his blue line to make it 2–0.
Reilly's point shot made its way through the front crowd at 7:50 of the second for his fourth to cut the Panthers' lead in half.
Toronto appeared to tie things up with 2:49 remaining when Reilly pushed the puck over the line close to the crowd. The call on the ice without a goal remained after a lengthy video review—the officials deemed the play dead before it crossed the line—which prompted some fans to litter the ice with drinks, water bottles and rally towels. inspired.
Marner hit the post on a shot that was deflected shortly after play resumed.
Nylander tied it with 4:37 left in the third as he took a pass from Tavares in stride and beat Bobrovsky over the top from a tight angle. It was his fourth goal of the post-season that sparked wild celebrations inside the frothy Scotiabank Arena – and chaotic street parties outside Maple Leaf Square.
However, the Maple Leafs could not score another goal.
Friday marked exactly 17 years since Panthers coach Paul Morris was named to the same position with the Maple Leafs. He stayed in Toronto for two seasons before being fired after the 2007–08 campaign.
Florida Forward Matthew Tkachuk was announced as one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP shortly before the game. Other named Oilers captains Connor McDavid and the Bruins forward David Pasternak.
Cousins scores in OT to send Panthers to Eastern Conference Finals in 3-2 win over Maple Leafs originally appeared NBCSports.com