When the Florida Panthers had their backs against the wall, Sergei Bobrovsky came through multiple times to help them take Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bobrovsky faced nine shots in the last 2:49 of the game with the Maple Leafs pressing for a goal with the extra attacker out.
And he stopped all of them.
The two-time Vezina Trophy winner stopped 34 of 36 shots to help the Panthers secure a 4-2 victory and take their first 1-0 series lead since 1997.
Bobrovsky also stopped 14 high-danger shots.
“The back half of that game was brilliant — and we required him to be,” coach Paul Maurice said.
When Florida started the game out on a sloppy note — taking two penalties in the first 4:46 of the game — Bobrovsky was there to bail them out.
Toronto came up with Grade-A chance after another and Bobrovsky came out of the four-minute power play onslaught stopping all four shots he faced.
The Panthers were energized from that performance from their goaltender and took the lead just over two minutes after the successful penalty kills ended.
Nick Cousins picked up the rebound of a Matthew Tkachuk shot and put it past Ilya Samsonov 9:25 into the game to make it 1-0.
With the momentum from Bobrovsky’s saves — and the dominance of Tkachuk’s line — he ended up with 13 saves in the opening period.
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead 7:58 into the second period when Sam Bennett deflected an Aaron Ekblad shot past Samsonov but Florida lost the momentum quickly after.
Matthew Knies hustled onto the rush and beat Bobrovsky with a spin-o-rama move from the front of the net nine seconds after Bennett’s goal.
Things seemed to be going very sour for Florida when Josh Mahura took a high-sticking penalty a minute later, but Bobrovsky was their best penalty killer yet again.
Toronto’s power play came up with numerous golden opportunities — including two from superstar Auston Matthews alone in the slot — but Bobrovsky came up with four saves on that penalty kill to keep the Panthers ahead.
The Maple Leafs finally tied the score with another rush goal from Michael Bunting with 5:03 to go in the period.
Carter Verhaeghe scored three minutes later to put the Panthers ahead going into the third period and that was all they needed.
Bobrovsky stopped all 14 shots he faced in the third to lock up a Game 1 victory.
Nine of those shots came in the final 2:49 of the game.
Brandon Montour’s insurance goal with 7:36 to go made things a lot more comfortable for his goaltender during Toronto’s big third-period push.
The Maple Leafs were pressuring Bobrovsky hard with the extra attacker out but he came up with a save every time.
Perhaps the biggest of which was a pad save on William Nylander with 1:11 off of a cross-ice feed from Bunting.
“I just got lucky,” Bobrovsky said. “I threw my pad there and the opponent made a solid shot and it just hit my toe.”
That save became all the more important when the Panthers found themselves on the penalty kill yet again when Bennett took a high-sticking penalty with 47 seconds to go.
Two saves from Bobrovsky and a forced offside later, the Panthers came away with the win.
“He’s been awesome,” Nick Cousins said. “He is playing with a lot of confidence and he is seeing the puck really well.
“I thought he was our best player tonight.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (ATL2) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 2 (Panthers Lead 1-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
- TV/Streaming: TNT, ESPN+
- 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: Thursday at Toronto, 7 (TNT); Game 3: Sunday at Florida, 6:30 (TBS); Game 4: Wednesday at Florida, 7 (ESPN); Game 5*:Friday, May 12 at Toronto (TNT); 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