SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers and Toronto Maple Leafs came into Game 4 on Wednesday night with the same objective but two different motives.
The Panthers wanted to put an end to this second-round playoff series, move on to the Eastern Conference finals for the second time in franchise history and first time since 1996.
Toronto just wanted to avoid a humiliating sweep and head back to Toronto for Game 5 — and jump new life into this series.
It was apparent the Leafs wanted a win more than the Panthers.
Thanks to goals from William Nylander and Mitch Marner, the Leafs avoided their sweep with a 2-1 win at FLA Live Arena.
Game 5 will be in Toronto on Friday night at 7 p.m. (TNT) as the Panthers now lead the best-of-7 series 3-1.
With the win, Toronto snapped Florida’s six-game playoff winning streak.
Florida got a power play goal from Sam Reinhart with 7:47 to pull back into the game as Sergei Bobrovsky made 23 saves.
“Obviously, they were blocking a lot, were a desperate team,’’ Brandon Montour said of the Leafs ending the night with 22 blocked shots.
For the Panthers, the loss is certainly not the end of the world — or anything close to it, really.
Florida simply got outplayed in the second period, being outshot 15-9 and allowing Toronto to get 9 high-danger chances in a period it won 1-0.
Had Bobrovsky not been in net, the Panthers — at least by the way they were playing — would have been out of this one.
By the midway point of the third, they almost were.
With the Leafs holding a 1-0 lead off an odd-bounce power play goal in the second, the beleaguered Marner made it 2-0 by throwing one through traffic at 10:03.
Both of Toronto’s goals came from the team’s ‘Core Four,’ elite scorers who had been held off the board in the opening three games.
Not long after Marner scored, Florida got a third power play chance and did not waste it as Reinhart fired off a shot rookie goalie Joseph Wall got a piece of.
The puck tricked through as Reinhart dove to try and knock the puck past if it did not do so on its own.
Wall, making his first postseason start, gave the Leafs everything they could hope for as Toronto kept the Panthers from creating too much and pushed Florida to the perimeter.
Nylander and Marner also helped give the Leafs the Game 5 they wanted.
Now it is up to the Panthers to finish things in Toronto.
“It has been going pretty good for us so to lose a game like that is not what you want,” Reinhart said. “We were right there until the end. That’s playoff hockey.”
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Leafs 1, Panthers 0 (3:28 PP, 2nd): William Nylander gets his first goal in eight games as a pass from Michael Bunting goes off an officials’ knee and hops on his stick in front of Sergei Bobrovsky. Hey, take ‘em any way you can.
- Leafs 2, Panthers 0 (10:03, 3rd): Mitch Marner fires one up through traffic and beats Bobrovsky on Toronto’s 23rd shot of the night.
- Leafs 2, Panthers 1 (12:13 PP, 3rd): Sam Reinhart got his 6th of the playoffs off a pass from Matthew Tkachuk.
GR’S 3 STARS OF GAME 4
1. Mitch Marner, Toronto
2. Joseph Woll, Toronto
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2)
GAME 5 (Florida Leads 3-1)
- When: Friday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Florida 4, @Toronto 2; Game 2: Florida 3, @Toronto 2; Game 3: @Florida 3, Toronto 2 (OT); Game 4: @Florida; Game 5: Friday at Toronto (TNT), 7; Game 6*: Sunday, May 14 at Florida (TBA); Game 7*:May 16 at Toronto (TNT). (*) – If Necessary
- How They Got Here: Toronto d. Tampa Bay 4-2; Florida d. Boston 4-3
- Season Series (Toronto won 3-1): Maple Leafs 5, @Panthers 4 OT (Jan. 17); @Maple Leafs 6, Panthers 2 (Mar. 23); Panthers 3, @Maple Leafs 2 OT (March 29); Maple Leafs 2, @Panthers 1 OT (April 10)
- Last season: Florida won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Toronto leads 48-36-7, 7 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting