For the second consecutive game, the Toronto Maple Leafs had a chance to keep their season going while the Florida Panthers were trying to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1996.
Stock up on those rubber rats, Florida fans: The Panthers are going back to the Eastern Conference finals.
Florida won it 3-2 when Nick Cousins scored with 4:28 left in overtime — the Panthers’ fourth OT win of these playoffs.
The Panthers also got first-period goals from Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verhaeghe while Sergei Bobrovsky held the Leafs to two goals for the fifth consecutive game in this series.
Bobrovsky finished the night with 50 saves.
The Panthers ended up winning all three games of the series in Toronto and six road playoff games overall. All four of the OT wins have been on the road — two in Boston and two in Toronto.
Florida will try and keep its road winning streak going when it opens against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh sometime next week.
The Panthers played a terrific opening road period, taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Ekblad got things going on Florida’s first power play chance of the night, rifling off a shot from the left circle past rookie goalie Joseph Woll at 3:31.
Toronto then brought everything it had but Bobrovsky was strong, keeping everything out of the net.
The Panthers made it 2-0 when Ekblad got the puck out of the zone, Anthony Duclair settled down a bouncing puck and fed Verhaeghe with 3:41 left.
Toronto finally got a shot past Bobrovsky at 7:50 of the second when Morgan Reilly banked one in from the blue line off the shin of Cousins to make it 2-1.
It appeared Reilly may have tied the score with 2:49 left when he jabbed a puck at Bobrovsky.
Although replays showed the puck going across the line, the NHL ruling was the only time the puck was seen going across was after the play was ruled dead.
Per the NHL: “The Referee deemed the play dead prior to the puck crossing the Florida line. The call was made in accordance to Rule 78.5 (xii), which states apparent goals shall be disallowed when the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle.”
Toronto fans, obviously, did not like the call as they littered the ice with cups and rally towels.
In the third, Florida played shutdown hockey throughout, keeping the Leafs from being able to set up in the offensive zone or do much of anything.
Yet with 4:36 remaining, William Nylander drove in and fired one over the left shoulder of Bobrovsky to tie things up.
Florida put on a strong push once the score was tied at 2 but failed to get anything past Woll.
The Panthers were outshot 14-6 in the third.
In overtime, Toronto continued its aggressive play with Auston Matthews having two big chances in front of the net that Bobrovsky stopped.
At 7:35 of OT, the Panthers got their second power play of the night when T.J. Brodie was called for delay of game in front of the Florida bench.
Florida did not score here but kept the pressure on.
In the end, Radko Gudas got things rolling by feeding the puck up the ice with Cousins rolling in on Woll. He ripped off a shot from the left circle and it was time for the Panthers to celebrate.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Leafs 0 (3:31 PP, 1st): Aaron Ekblad gets out by himself in the left circle and one-times a shot from Gus Forsling to give the Panthers the initial lead.
- Panthers 2, Leafs 0 (16:19, 1st): Carter Verhaeghe gets his fifth of the postseason as Anthony Duclair handles a bouncing puck and finds him in the right circle.
- Panthers 2, Leafs 1 (7:50, 2nd): Morgan Reilly throws up a shot from just inside the blue line and the puck clips Nick Cousins’ shin pad and gets past Sergei Bobrovsky.
- Leafs 2, Panthers 2 (15:24, 3rd): William Nylander drives in on Bobrovsky and puts one in up over his left shoulder and it’s a brand new game.
- Panthers 3, Leafs 2 (15:32, OT): Cousins puts his name in the Florida record book with a series-clinching OT win as he rips one from the left circle.
GR’S 3 STARS OF GAME 5
1. Nick Cousins, Florida
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida
3. Joseph Woll, Toronto
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
PANTHERS (WC2) AT CAROLINA HURRICANES (MET1)
- When: TBA
- Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh
- TV/Radio: TBA
- Series Schedule: TBA
- Season Series: (Carolina won 2-1): Florida 3, Carolina 2 (Nov. 9); Carolina 4, Florida 0 (Dec. 30); Carolina 6, Florida 4 (April 13)
- All-Time Regular Season Series: Carolina/Hartford leads 71-46-10, 11 ties
- Postseason History: First Meeting
- How They Got Here — Carolina: d. New York Islanders in 6; d. New Jersey Devils in 5. Florida: d. Boston Bruins in 7; d. Toronto Maple Leafs in 5.