Bobrovsky shines as Panthers survive blown lead to beat Maple Leafs in series opener
Sheldon Keefe watched his team commit two mistakes — mistakes he didn’t see in the first round of the playoffs — that led directly to goals.
After the Maple Leafs recovered and even rebounded, another costly mistake was eliminated that was too much to overcome.
Toronto is now right where it was after Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, trailing the series and looking for answers.
They force you to make mistakes,” Toronto head coach Keefe said. “But I thought we made some mistakes that we shouldn’t have made in the last series.”
Sam Bennett, with a goal and an assist, Nick Cousins and Brandon Montour continued the onslaught as Florida beat the record-setting Boston Bruins, 3-1, to win three straight and capture its first. round match in seven games Sunday. Alexander Barkov made two assists.
“If we get a little tired because of it [Bruins] The series was tough, that’s our normal day,” said Panthers head coach Paul Morris, whose group had less than 48 hours to recover before hitting the ice in Toronto. “When you look at our schedule at the end of January, it’s brutal. And that’s when we started playing our best hockey.
“So we’re kind of used to being in the mud, as we would say.”
WATCH l Panthers steal Game 1 in Toronto.
Matthew Kniss, with his first NHL goal, and Michael Bunting answered for Toronto.
The Leafs ended a generation of misery Saturday when John Tavares scored in Game 6 against Tampa to see the Original Six franchise advance to the postseason for the first time since 2004, but couldn’t carry the momentum forward.
Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots for the Leafs, who take on the Panthers in Game 2 on Thursday before moving the series to South Florida.
“They played well,” said Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn, whose team lost Game 1 to the Lightning 7-3 on the same ice in the last round. “But a lot of the goals scored were self-immolations.
“We still have a lot to give.”
Tied 2-2 late in the second period with the Leafs pushing, never-say-die visitors, the Bruins learned that first hand, responding to silence the towel-waving crowd at Scotiabank Arena.
Verhegge, who scored the dramatic game-winning goal in Game 7 against Boston, took a pass from Anthony Duclair and put his team ahead for good when he beat Samsonov for his fourth goal of the playoffs at 17:47.
“The one guy we definitely don’t want to part with,” Keefe laments. “A big part of the program is how he can jump into those holes. We cannot afford that mistake.
Toronto had several chances to tie it in the third, but never really threatened Bobrovsky until Montour hit a one-yarder at 12:24 after Leafs defenseman Jake McCabe brought down Tkachuk.
“As hockey goes on, we’ve come together to support each other and help each other,” Bobrowski said. “We have become like a family every day [since] the playoffs have begun.”
Florida’s goalie was on a late shutout, including a great stop on William Nylander’s leg, and Toronto’s best chance to come back within a minute with just over a minute left in regulation.
“We made some plays,” said Leafs winger Mitch Marner, who was announced as one of three Selke Trophy contenders as the NHL’s top defensive forward.
“We gave them too many clean looks on our net.”
The Leafs hit the ice in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since Jeremy Roenick scored in Game 6 for the Philadelphia Flyers to eliminate Toronto on May 4, 2004 at 18 years, 11 months and 28 days.
After the hosts got a series of great looks on two power plays poised to erupt on the rink, the Panthers struck when Cousins scored his first goal at 9:25 on a rebound in the opening period.
Bobrovsky made a couple of huge saves after Auston Matthews on the Leafs’ power play to put Florida up 2-0 at 7:58 when Bennett tipped a point shot past Samsonov that hit Kniss’ stick first.
The Toronto rookie made amends 11 seconds later when he scored his first professional goal on a back-to-back effort between the skates and into the Florida net after Bobrovsky made the initial save.
Schenn then rattled Tkachuk with a big shot in the neutral zone before Bunting, who served a three-game suspension in the first round and was a healthy scratch for the other, scored his first goal at 14:51 off a perfect pass from Kalle Jarnkrok.
Toronto continued the physical play from the blue line as Morgan Rielly rattled Eric Stoll and McCabe hit Duclair.
But it was the latter who had the last laugh when he dispossessed Verhaege shortly after to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
“They did to us what they did to Boston a lot, to stop us getting out of our zone and put those plays together quickly,” Keefe said. “Before you know it, it’s coming to your network.
“They’re doing a tremendous job of that.”
The Leafs must find an answer.
#Bobrovsky #shines #Panthers #survive #blown #lead #beat #Maple #Leafs #series #opener