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CrapShoot: Bizarre Twist Costs Panthers a Point to Leafs

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The Florida Panthers celebrate Kevin Stenlund’s first-period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 28, 2023. (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire)

The Florida Panthers skated off the ice in Toronto believing they came away with a big shootout win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

They were in for one hell of a surprise.

Although Evan Rodrigues scored the game-winning goal in Round 5 of the shootout, video review showed he touched the puck after his initial shot, the follow through beating Joseph Woll.

That is against the rules.

So, while a good number of Panthers were in the visitors’ room, Round 6 started.

By the time the review was over, the Panthers bench was empty after the team already celebrated a hard-fought and well-deserved victory.

When Noah Gregor scored the go-ahead goal in the next round for the Maple Leafs, Florida players were still scrambling out toward the bench to prepare for their half of the round.

Nick Cousins was ready to go — and beat Woll blocker side but struck the post, ending the shootout as Florida left with a 2-1 loss.

“It’s important they have rules,” coach Paul Maurice quipped during a very entertaining postgame presser.

“It’s important because there’s no other way to do that. Because if he rips it off the guy and it goes off his shin pad and goes in, is that a goal?

“It happens so fast, but f—, it’s important we have rules. Just go with that.”

According to the NHL, Rodrigues’ shot “crossed the Toronto goal line as a result of a rebound.”

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It is Rule 37.3 (j) if you want to look it up.

At the end of the day, the called-off shootout goal cost Florida a point in the standings.

Oh well.

“I don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about the shootout, to be honest with you,” Maurice said.

“Until they bring it into the playoffs, [it doesn’t matter.] I was just happy with the game.”

With his team fresh off of a 167 penalty minute brouhaha against the Ottawa Senators the night before, there was plenty for Maurice to be happy with.

Anthony Stolarz stepped up and stopped 31 of 32 shots.

And he came up big for them when they needed him to.

Stolarz came up with seven saves on the penalty kill, including two big ones in the third period to help keep the game tied.

He finished the third period with 11 saves total in what was an absolute blitz of chances from both sides to help force overtime.

“He is a big man and he got to the post a few times and got into a few scrums,” Maurice said.

”I thought he made a couple of big saves but I also didn’t think it was a siege where they were all over us.”

Florida’s penalty kill did a solid job of limiting Stolarz’s workload, and boy did they need to.

The Panthers finished the night 6-for-6 on the kill, continuing their hot streak after a rough first two weeks of the season.

“The penalty kill was a weakness for us last year, so we had to fix our penalty killers and they were good tonight,” Maurice said.

“Especially in a back-to-back because we’re so aggressive with now. You’re worried on that second night it’d be a half step off, right? So we’ve had lots of opportunity to practice it tonight and it was really great. I was happy with it.”

They needed it to be great after a controversial high-sticking call on Jonah Gadjovich put the Panthers on a four-minute double minor penalty kill with 3:04 to go in regulation.

On the play, Gregor tripped over Gadjovich’s skate and face-planted into his stick, which was hovering below shoulder-height before he took the fall.

After a video review, it was determined that the play was, indeed, high sticking.

While Maurice was furious at the time, barking at the refereees, he minced his words afterward.

And his team gave him a reason to, effectively shutting down the Maple Leafs’ top guns by hounding them in their own end and eventually getting off early as Toronto took a too many men penalty with five seconds left in regulation.

“I like the way we played and I like the fact we held our composure with everything that happened on the ice,” Maurice said.

“It wasn’t mean or nasty, it was a light game, but just going back into the box at critical moments, the coach is a little sour back there but the players were good.

“The players handled it better than the coach.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ MONTREAL CANADIENS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Centre Bell, Montreal
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WAXY 790-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 4-0
  • This Season — At Montreal: Thursday; April 2. At Florida: Dec. 30; Feb. 29.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 55-38-11, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. New York Islanders, 6 p.m.

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