Panthers rally past Maple Leafs in Game 2, extend lead in East 2nd Round
The Florida Panthers scored twice in 47 seconds early in the second period, rallying to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday.
Florida extended its lead in the best-of-7 series after falling behind by two goals 5:10 into the game.
“Lots of stuff has been thrown at us this year,” Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. “… It’s playoffs. We knew they were coming hard. We should have come out better than what we did and that’s on us as players, but I think the adjustments we made at the intermission was great and it helps [that in the] first shift [Aleksander] Barkov scores and then we get one the next shift. It’s way easier playing with the lead.”
Game 3 is at Florida on Sunday.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 35 saves, and Anton Lundell had a goal and an assist for the Panthers, who have won five straight games and are the second wild card from the East.
“You need your goaltender to win you a series every night, and he did that tonight,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said. “I don’t think it was easy at the start for him. Certainly the way we played in front of him the first 10 minutes was challenging, and then he built. You get behind the bench some nights and you get a feel for your goaltender where you go, ‘Man he’s just not getting beat again,’ and that’s what he gave our team.”
Alexander Kerfoot and Ryan O’Reilly scored, and Ilya Samsonov made 26 saves for the Maple Leafs, who are the No. 2 seed from the Atlantic Division.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” O’Reilly said. “Being down 2-0 is not what we want, but it’s a long series. There’s a lot of hockey left. We have to continue building our game and not worry.
“We have to self-reflect. We need to be better in certain areas. Win the next game and build from there.”
Barkov tied it 2-2 just 19 seconds into the second when he shot low to the glove side from the top of the left face-off circle after taking a drop pass from Anthony Duclair. The sequence began with a turnover by Maple Leafs forward William Nylander in the neutral zone.
Then, following an Auston Matthews giveaway just inside Toronto’s defensive zone, Gustav Forsling put Florida up 3-2 just 47 seconds later at 1:06. He took a pass across the slot from Matthew Tkachuk and shot past Samsonov’s blocker from the left circle.
“Disappointing. Baffling, quite frankly,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “We didn’t even make those mistakes one time in the last series.
“This one is disappointing. We’re rolling early in the game and we just give it back to them. Those are things we haven’t done and frankly just cannot do if you are serious about winning.”
Bobrovsky stopped all 12 shots he faced in the third period to preserve the lead. He made a blocker save against John Tavares on the doorstep at 3:35, then stopped Nylander cutting to the top of the crease at 15:05.
Bobrovsky has started the past six games for the Panthers after Alex Lyon started the first three in the first round against the Boston Bruins.
“He played awesome,” Tkachuk said. “He’s been driving it for us ever since he’s come back in. He deserves it. He works so hard. He’s the hardest worker I’ve seen. He grinds and just continues to work on his game and take care of himself like I’ve never seen somebody do. He’s been the leader for us ever since he’s come back, so we’re lucky to have him.”
Kerfoot gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead at 2:20 of the first period by putting in a rebound at the top of the crease after Luke Schenn’s point shot.
O’Reilly made it 2-0 on the power play at 5:10. He scored from low in the right circle off a crossing pass from Mitchell Marner.
Lundell cut it to 2-1 at 11:13 with his first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen checked Maple Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren in the corner to create a turnover behind the net, Sam Reinhart sent a backhand pass to Lundell, who one-timed it at the top of the crease.
“The Lundell goal was huge in this game because at that point, you’re going, ‘This could be 12-0, they’re on us,'” Maurice said. “That goal was big, and then a real strong push in that middle part and we just settled.”
Barkov agreed that Lundell’s goal helped to calm the Panthers.
“We didn’t start well that game, they came really hard on us,” said Barkov, the Florida captain. “They played the right way, put a lot of pucks to the net, got a couple of power plays and scored a couple of goals. Lundell’s line, that was huge for us. Get us back in the game, scored one and all of a sudden it’s a one-goal game.”
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Game three Sunday@LGCanada | #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/YmSvOJVytr
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