SUNRISE, FLA.—Joseph Woll and the Core 4 has a fairly good ring to it.
The Maple Leafs wanted them, and a lot extra Wednesday evening, to dwell to battle one other day.
They wanted objectives from William Nylander and Mitch Marner, their first of the collection, and blocked pictures from Justin Holl and Alex Kerfoot, and sticks in the way in which by Ryan O’Reilly and David Kämpf to beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 Wednesday evening. .
“From an effort standpoint, I believed it was our greatest effort all season, from begin to end,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe mentioned. “There was no actual let-up. Our competitiveness, and our urgency was the very best it’s been all yr.”
However the hero needed to be Woll, aptly nicknamed Brick. It’s too early to make any Ken Dryden comparisons, however the Leafs rookie goalie backstopped his veteran teammates to their first win of the second spherical of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“It was a fairly superior recreation to get put into,” mentioned Woll, who stopped 24 of 25 pictures. “It was superior for me to see how arduous we performed, guys blocking pictures and placing all of it on the road.”
It was the very best recreation the group has put collectively because the second recreation of the primary spherical, a 7-2 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Leafs have been a extra composed group, taking part in extra in management, they usually bought the goaltending they wanted from Woll, who was pressed into service due to an undisclosed upper-body damage to Ilya Samsonov.
“Our group in entrance of him gave him each alternative for achievement with how they competed, blocked pictures, conserving the puck away,” Keefe mentioned. “However something that did get via, he appeared actually assured and in management.”
The Panthers are an opportunistic group that feeds off their opposition’s errors, and the Leafs didn’t make many. After they did, Woll was there to cease the puck, turning into the primary Leafs rookie goalie to document a playoff win since Felix Potvin in 1993.
Sam Reinhart scored a power-play objective late within the third, because the Panthers desperately tried to get again within the recreation and put the Leafs away. However Keefe calmed issues down with a timeout, getting the gang to relax a bit. Woll did his half, and the skaters did the remainder.
“For me, my mindset doesn’t change, regardless what the state of affairs is within the recreation,” Woll mentioned. “That’s the sport throughout the recreation I play in my thoughts, and I feel that was vital at the moment as properly.”
Dryden, by the way in which, performed six regular-season video games for the Canadiens earlier than taking on the web and successful the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 1971. Woll performed seven video games for the Leafs this yr.
It’s the fourth time since this run of post-season appearances started in 2017 that the Leafs staved off elimination in a playoff spherical. They’ve usually been the group with the benefit, however they beat Boston twice in 2018 to rally from a 3-1 deficit to drive a Sport 7, they usually have been down 2-1 to Columbus within the best-of-five qualifying spherical playoff within the COVID-shortened season in 2020, successful Sport 4 to ship that collection the gap.
Given the circumstances they discovered themselves in heading into Wednesday’s recreation, the end result was the very best they might hope for. They stayed alive to drive a Sport 5.
Gamers across the league at all times communicate of the fourth win in a best-of-seven being the toughest, essentially the most elusive. Definitely, anybody who has adopted the Leafs the previous few years is properly conscious of that. So this was step one of reminding the Panthers of that, of planting that seed of doubt.
Now the objective is to win yet another recreation, and produce the collection again to Florida.
“It’s going to take much more than what it did tonight,” Nylander mentioned. “Successful one right here is one step on the way in which. Don’t wish to get too excessive. It’s only one win. We’ve bought a protracted methods to go.
And although the Panthers have achieved properly on the street, they’ll head to Toronto realizing they’ve missed their first likelihood to eradicate the Leafs. It’s the primary to 4 wins, and neither group has gotten there but.
“We misplaced a recreation at present, that occurs within the playoffs, I feel to all people up to now,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice mentioned. “We’re good. We’re OK. We get to play the subsequent one.”
The one factor the Leafs have been speaking about within the days and hours main as much as puck drop was staying within the second.
“Interested by previous experiences and what I might have achieved in another way or no matter, simply creates negativity,” veteran defenceman Luke Schenn mentioned. “What I’ve discovered is I’m not superb at controlling the long run, Clearly, you consider the long run, but when you consider the long run you’re not going to be the place it is advisable be within the current.”
So far as first durations go, when the Leafs had the best to be nervous given their season was on the road, they did all proper. It ended 0-0, with Woll making just a few massive saves, notably on a slapshot from Brandon Montour and a drive to the web by Sam Bennett. Holl and Kerfoot blocked pictures, the Leafs bought their stick in the way in which of Florida passes higher than they’ve, they usually did a greater job of taking part in within the Florida finish. The Panthers ended with a 7-6 pictures benefit, constructed on an influence play on what seemed to be a phantom cross-check name on Holl as Matthew Tkachuk backed into his stick.
The notion that not one of the Cour 4 might go 4 video games with out at the very least one in all them scoring was absurd. They’d gone three after by no means having gone two in a row within the common season. The drought ended on a fortunate bounce.
The Leafs have been on their first energy play, and it wasn’t going properly. However they gained the zone and a Michael Bunting go meant to cycle behind Bobrovsky was redirected off an official proper to Nylander, catching each he and the goalie unexpectedly. Nylander bought the higher of it. His backhand hit the put up, then caromed off Bobrovsky, modified path once more and went in at 3:27.
From there, the Leafs appeared extra in management, extra like themselves. A 1-0 lead wasn’t a lot after 40 minutes, nevertheless it was a lead, the primary time they’d held a lead going into the third interval in opposition to the Panthers. Marner scored what turned out to be the winner on a protracted shot via visitors because the Leafs’ high gamers asserted themselves.
“It’s in these moments, guys bought to play and present what they bring about to the desk,” Nylander mentioned. “As a group, we did a extremely good job of that. It’s not going to get simpler. We’re up in opposition to an amazing group. We simply must hold digging in, taking part in more durable and more durable.”
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