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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Hello, Tampa Bay: Florida Panthers 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

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SUNRISE — For the first 20 minutes on Tuesday night, it looked like the Toronto Maple Leafs really did want Florida after all as they scored twice in the first against the Panthers.

Apparently not.

The Panthers scored four in the second period off 29 shots on goal and took down the Leafs 5-2.

The win gave the Panthers the Atlantic Division title and, instead of playing Toronto in the first round, a date with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The third playoff series between the Panthers and Lightning in history — all since 2021 — is expected to start Sunday in Sunrise.

Florida won the division by virtue of beating the Leafs but also thanks to Boston coasting in its final two games and allowing the Panthers to take the Lightning.

The Bruins lost Monday in Washington and again Tuesday to the struggling Senators.

Boston will now play the Maple Leafs in Round 1.

Florida trailed 2-0 going into the second before Carter Verhaeghe scored 27 seconds in.

Midway through the second, Sam Bennett tied the score on a deflect of a shot from Gus Forsling.

Before fans could stop screaming, Sam Reinhart pounced on a loose puck and made it 3-2 just 10 seconds later.

Brandon Montour capped off the dominant second with a shot from the point.

Florida closed the scoring on Reinhart’s 57th of the season into an empty net with 2:20 left to play.

GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Leafs 1, Panthers 0 (4:25, 1st PP): Mitch Marner fires one through traffic off a pass from Morgan Reilly to give Toronto an early lead.
  • Leafs 2, Panthers 0 (11:18, 1st): Noah Gregor wrists a shot between the legs of Eetu Luostarinen and beats Anthony Stolarz with Pontus Holmberg in front.
  • Leafs 2, Panthers 1 (0:28, 2nd): Carter Verhaeghe follows up his own rebound as it pops right onto his stick in the slot and the Panthers are off and running.
  • Panthers 2, Leafs 2 (10:32, 2nd): Sam Bennett charges in and redirects a Gus Forsling shot to tie it. For a moment, anyway…
  • Panthers 3, Leafs 2 (10:42, 2nd): Sam Reinhart jumps on a loose puck left by Sasha Barkov, beats Joseph Woll and the Panthers score twice in 10 seconds.
  • Panthers 4, Leafs 2 (13:42, 2nd): Brandon Montour fires one in from the slot — one of 30 shots on goal in the second period for Florida.
  • Panthers 5, Leafs 2 (17:40, 3rd EN): Reinhart caps off his season with No. 57.

FHN’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME

1. Sam Reinhart, Florida

2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida

3. Brandon Montour, Florida

PANTHERS ON DECK

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (WC1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1)

GAME 1

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