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Maple Leafs squander 2-goal lead in middle frame as Panthers extend series lead

Sheldon Keefe sat at the microphone with a blank expression.

It was the same look the Maple Leafs head coach had after his team gave the Florida Panthers two goals in 47 disastrous seconds.

Sergey Bobrovsky then took over from there.

The veteran goaltender made 35 saves as Florida again took advantage of several crucial errors by Toronto to win 3-2 and take a 2-0 lead in Thursday’s second-round playoff series.

“Disappointing, confusing,” Keefe said, beginning one of the shortest press conferences of his career. “We didn’t make those mistakes once in the last series.”

WATCH |: Forsling scores a goal in the 2nd game for “Panthers”.

Forsling’s 2nd period goal proves winner, Panthers take Game 2

Gustav Forsling’s second-period goal put the Panthers ahead for good as Florida beat the Maple Leafs 3-2 to take a 2-0 series lead.

In the morning, he talked about how this iteration of the Leafs is smarter and more responsible, especially in the franchise’s first-round win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, which ended a 19-year playoff heartbreak despite a few mistakes that cost them 1 game against Florida.

“That’s why it’s confusing,” he said in a follow-up question Thursday night.

“[Go] “Go back home, look in the mirror,” added “Leifs” goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov, “and ask what I should do more.” This is what we all have to do.”

Anton Lundell, with a goal and an assist, Alexander Barkov and Gustav Forsling scored for Florida, which defeated the defending Presidents’ Cup champion Boston Bruins in seven games, including three on the road and two more at Scotiabank Arena.

“It’s a prospect,” Panthers head coach Paul Morris said. “It’s five games in nine nights, that’s how intense, emotional pressure you can put on a hockey team. We’ve been on the plane for a while. We didn’t think there was much in our legs.

“It was just about character and it was just about fighting and fighting through it.”

Ryan O’Reilly and Alexander Kerfoot responded for Toronto, who took an early 2-0 lead. Samsonov stopped 26 shots.

The line moves south

The best-of-seven series now moves to Sunrise, Fla., for Games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Wednesday, as the Leafs face an uphill battle against an opponent with a relentless forecast that has baffled Boston and is now giving Toronto a workout.

“We just don’t run like animals,” Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk said. “We’re just trying to play our identity.”

“Not an ideal spot,” Leafs captain John Tavares said of his team’s predicament. “A chance to regroup here and look forward to the road. It will be a tough test, but we have to raise our level.”

After a spirited 2-1 first period, disaster struck for Toronto early in the second.

Barkov tied the game just 19 seconds later, after Samsonov said he didn’t see his second goal of the postseason coming.

Things got worse at 1:06 thanks to a defensive rebound play when Mitch Marner threw an errant pass to Auston Matthews, who in turn couldn’t get it out.

A group of hockey fans cheer and wave their towels in the air as they stand together on a city street.
Fans react during Game 2 of the Maple Leafs tailgate outside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Thursday. (Nav Rahi / CBC)

Florida quickly countered when Forsling finished off Tkachuk’s assist for his fourth of the series, the defenseman’s second goal of the postseason, to take a 3-2 lead.

The bombshell-shocked Leafs took some time to recover before Nylander hit a shot in the post that also hit the back of Bobrovsky and was out. Florida defenseman Brandon Montour then found iron on the other end of Samsonov.

Tavares had a great chance in front until Josh Mahura deflected Nylander’s shot off the visor, which left a trail of blood on the ice as he exited the locker room for repairs.

Toronto had plenty of urgency at third but couldn’t solve Bobrovsky, who has begun to rediscover his Vezina Trophy game this playoff after losing the starting job to third baseman Alex Lyon late in the regular season.

“He played great,” said Tkachuk. “He’s been running it for us since he got back.”

A group of men's hockey players gather on the ice in celebration as the team's fans clap and cheer behind the glass.
Ryan O’Reilly is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a goal in the first half on Thursday. (Heather Waldron/CBC)

Tavares stood alone on the Florida goaltender and Nylander hit another post. The Leafs winger was also denied in the backcourt with five minutes left in regulation.

“I must have jumped out of my seat about three times,” Matthews. “I thought we had a puck in the net right there, just missed it.”

The hosts continued to press with Samsonov on the bench for an extra striker but could not find a way past Bobrovsky.

“We are just working hard,” said Barkov. “We believe in each other, we believe in our system. Bob has been huge for us.”

Samsonov was asked if he feels more pressure at the other end with his reverse steal wins.

“I don’t give a shit [expletive]”I do my job, he does his job.”

Toronto trailed 4-2 but got off to a flying start Thursday when Kerfoot came back with his second shot of the game at 2:20 of the first.

After failing to connect on two power plays in Game 1, the Leafs made it 2-0 with a man advantage at 5:10 when Marner hung around the offensive zone and found O’Reilly to bury his third.

Leafs rookie Knies exits the game

The hard-hitting Panthers, who knocked off the record-setting Bruins in seven games to advance to the second round, stayed on message and began to push back late in the period, including Sam Bennett putting Matthew Kniss in a headlock and hitting him. ice

The Toronto rookie ended the period but did not return in the second. Keefe did not have an update after the game.

“I didn’t love it,” Tavares said of the Bennett-Knees sequence. “And then [it] leads to injury.”

Florida answered at 11:13 when Lundell scored his first goal after teammate Eetu Luostarinen beat Leafs defenseman Timothy Liljegren behind Samsonov’s net and Tavares fell as the Panthers began to turn the tide.

“It wasn’t a perfect game for us by any means,” Morris said. “But I didn’t expect that from my team. I didn’t expect them to be perfect today. I just want them to stay in the fight.

– That’s what they did.

The Leafs should now do the same.

#Maple #Leafs #squander #2goal #lead #middle #frame #Panthers #extend #series #lead

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