The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Florida Panthers 2-1 in Game 4 of the second round! After being on the brink of elimination heading into last night’s matchup, the blue and white finally strung it together, earning a hard-fought and well-defended victory. The Florida Panthers still lead the series 3-1, but the Maple Leafs finally have some hope. Friday night’s Game 5 will be in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena.
The Maple Leafs came out of the gate hot in the first period. After generating a few opportunities early, none could find the back of the goal. Around the mid-way mark of the period, the Florida Panthers began catching a spark. After peppering Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll, the Cats were putting the pressure on but had nothing to show for it. The Maple Leafs defended extremely well to close out the first period, sending us to intermission tied at zero.
Once the middle frame kicked off, the Toronto Maple Leafs stole the momentum right back. After Panthers forward Eetu Luostarinen was called for an early high-sticking penalty, the Maple Leafs took advantage, scoring on the powerplay. After a lucky bounce found the tape of Leafs star William Nylander, the 27-year-old forward drove the net and just caught a piece of the puck that slipped behind Sergei Bobrovsky. The Florida Panthers goaltender was close to keeping the puck out, but luck was finally on the Leafs side. After the Leafs scored the game’s opening goal, the blue and white didn’t stop there, playing a really strong second period. After outshooting the Panthers 15-8 in the middle frame, we were heading to the third period with the Leafs up one.
The final twenty minutes of this one were fairly predictable. After being up a goal in a must-win game, the blue and white really packed it in trying to close out this one. The period’s first ten minutes were low-event, but the Florida Panthers really took their chances. Just when it felt like Florida was close to finding an equalizer, Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner fired a puck from the point that beat Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. After a good screen in front by Ryan O’Reilly, the Maple Leafs had themselves an insurance goal near the midway part of the third. However, just when Leafs fans thought they could breathe a bit, Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhardt finally got one by Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll. It was a powerplay goal for the Cats, but it trickled through Joseph Woll, leading to a loose puck in the crease. The 27-year-old Panthers forward made it close late, leading to an exciting finish. After the Panthers scored and Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe used his timeout, the blue and white put on a defensive clinic as they shut down the Cats offense. Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll played a big factor in closing this one out, but the Maple Leafs defense was strong, restoring fans’ hope for Game 5 on Friday.
This was a style we’ve rarely seen the Maple Leafs play here in the second round. The Maple Leafs were finally committed to defending and doing whatever was necessary to earn the victory. After blocking a ridiculous amount of shots, using sticks to intercept passes, and even getting physical in the corners. If this is how the Maple Leafs play in Game 5, I like their chances. It’s important to remember the Leafs are still down 3-1 in the series, so the one game approach lives on as we look forward to Friday.
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