Nick Cousins’ overtime goal sees the Panthers through the Maple Leafs to the Eastern Conference Finals
Nick Cousins scored a goal of 15:32 in overtime, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 50 saves Florida Panthers defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in Game 5 of their second round of playoffs on Friday to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verhaeghe Each scored a goal and an assist to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored goals for the Maple Leafs, who advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years when they defeated Tampa Bay in the first round. Rookie goalkeeper Joseph Woll was able to fend off 41 saves in his first playoff home start.
In the overtime, Cousins buried his second goal of the playoffs from the Rush Short side on Woll to send the Panthers to the conference finals for the first time since 1996.
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Florida — the team with the fewest points to qualify for the postseason — won all three games in Toronto and improved to 6-1 away in the playoffs after defeating the record-breaking Boston Bruins. Next up are the Panthers and the Carolina Hurricanes, who also defeated the New Jersey Devils in five games.
Woll made 24 saves in his Game 4 win, avoiding the sweep.
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Despite the breakthrough against the Lightning, the Maple Leafs now face an uncertain offseason. General manager Kyle Dubas does not have a contract past June 30, while there are also rumors surrounding coach Sheldon Keefe’s future. Nylander and Auston Matthews each have one year left and can sign extensions from July 1, while fellow striker Mitch Marner’s exclusion clause goes into effect on the same day.
Toronto’s powerful offense — which includes the so-called “Core Four” of Matthews, Nylander, Marner and John Tavares — scored just three goals in the series for a team that has netted just 14 goals in their last seven playoff games, including a paltry 10 against the Panthers.
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The Leafs ended that Postseason 1-5 at home.