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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

East Semis, Game 1: Florida Panthers 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

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The Florida Panthers did not show any ill effects Tuesday night as they opened up against the Toronto Maple Leafs following a hard-fought opening playoff series win against Boston.

The Panthers just kept the good times rolling.

Florida, which won the final three games of the Boston series, never trailed on Tuesday as they beat the host Leafs 4-2 in Toronto.

The Panthers have their first 1-0 lead in a playoff series since 1997 as they snapped an eight-game losing streak in series-openers dating to that first-round meeting with the New York Rangers.

Florida also took home ice advantage away from the Leafs.

The Panthers got goals from Nick Cousins, Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe and Brandon Montour in the win as Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves — including eight in the final 3 minutes.

Matthew Tkachuk had three assists in the win with Sasha Barkov recording two.

Toronto, as expected, came out flying against a Florida team which looked a little too amped up as Bennett and Gus Forsling both took penalties within the opening 5 minutes of the game.

Unlike the Bruins series, Florida’s penalty kill looked sharp early on as Toronto got just three shots on goal.

Bobrovsky looked sharp throughout the night but especially early as he stopped a number of high-end shots.

But the Panthers survived Toronto’s early push and took a 1-0 lead when Cousins made a nice grab of a Tkachuk rebound at 9:25.

Florida took a 2-0 lead when Bennett deflected in a long shot from Aaron Ekblad before Toronto got its home crowd into it.

Rookie Matthew Knies — fresh out of the University of Minnesota — got his first NHL goal 11 seconds after Bennett scored. Five minutes later, it was 2-2.

Only the Panthers did not panic and took a 3-2 lead into the third when Verhaeghe beat Ilya Samsonov (again) with 2:13 remaining in the period.

That goal gave Verhaeghe 11 in his playoff career, which passed Ray Sheppard for most all-time in franchise history.

The Panthers shut down Toronto for much of the third period and pounced when Tkachuk drew a penalty on Jake McCabe.

Florida held the puck in for 40 seconds on the delayed penalty with Montour scoring for the sixth time in these playoffs.

Game 2 is Thursday night in Toronto.

GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Panthers 1, Leafs 0 (9:25, 1st): Nick Cousins shovels in a backhanded shot off a fat Matthew Tkachuk rebound to give Florida the initial lead.
  • Panthers 2, Leafs 0 (7:58, 2nd): Aaron Ekblad lets one fly from the blue line and the puck initially hits Matthew Knies’ stick before it clips Sam Bennett on its way past Ilya Samsonov.
  • Panthers 2, Leafs 1 (8:09, 2nd): Just 11 seconds later, Knies drives in on Sergei Bobrovsky and delivers a beautiful shot. Nice time for the first NHL goal for the former U-Minnesota star.
  • Leafs 2, Panthers 2 (14:51, 2nd): Michael Bunting takes advantage of a Florida line change by getting loose on a breakaway and beating Bobrovsky with a feed from Calle Jarnkrok.
  • Panthers 3, Leafs 2 (17:47, 2nd): Carter Verhaeghe breaks out off a nifty feed from Anthony Duclair and gets another playoff goal.
  • Panthers 4, Leafs 2 (12:24, 3rd): Brandon Montour lets one fly on a delayed penalty after Florida was able to cycle the puck around numerous times. Sixth goal of these playoffs for Montour.

GR’S 3 STARS OF GAME 1

1. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida

2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida

3. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 2 (Panthers Lead 1-0)

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