Sergei Bobrovsky made 34 saves, Matthew Tkachuk had three assists and the Florida Panthers survived a playful two-goal lead to defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 in the opening game of their second-round playoff series on Tuesday night.
Sam Bennett had a goal and an assist and Carter Verhaeghe and Nick Cousins also scored for Florida. Aleksander Barkov had two assists.
Matthew Knies scored his first NHL goal and Michael Bunting scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov stopped 24 shots.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Thursday.
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The Panthers had roared back from a 3-1 deficit to stun the record-breaking Boston Bruins with three straight wins and win that first-round streak in seven games.
The Maple Leafs ended a generation of misery on Saturday when John Tavares scored in Game 6 overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning as Toronto advanced in the postseason for the first time since 2004.
Toward the end of the second period, the Panthers were down to 2 as the Maple Leafs pressed, silencing the towel-waving crowd at Scotiabank Arena.
Verhaeghe, who scored the dramatic winner in Sunday’s Game 7 against Boston, took a pass from Anthony Duclair and gave Florida the final lead when he defeated Samsonov with a breakaway at 17:47 for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Toronto had a few chances to equalize in the third game, but Bobrovsky was never really threatened before Montour missed a one-timer with a late penalty at 12:24.
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Bobrovsky then denied William Nylander with a great toe stop with just over a minute left in regulation for Toronto’s best chance of closing within a minute.
The Maple Leafs are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since Jeremy Roenick scored in Game 6 overtime for the Philadelphia Flyers to eliminate Toronto on May 4, 2004 – a span of 18 years, 11 months and 28 days .
After Toronto had a series of great looks on two power plays, the Panthers struck when Cousins scored his first hit on a rebound after 9:25 of the opening period.
Samsonov helped when a shot smacked the post early in the third, making big stops at Anton Lundell and Barkov.
Bobrovsky made a couple of big saves against Auston Matthews on a Maple Leafs power play in the second before Florida went 2-0 up at 7:58 when Bennett tapped a point shot past Samsonov, who initially hit Knies’ racquet.
The Toronto rookie made amends 11 seconds later when he scored his first professional goal on a highlight reel effort between his skates, turning his back on Florida’s goal after Bobrovsky made the first save.
Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn then rocked Tkachuk with a big hit in the neutral zone before Bunting, who was suspended for three games in the first round and picked up a healthy scrape for another, scored his first goal of the postseason at 2:51 a perfect pass scored by Calle Jarnkrok.
Duclair passed Verhaeghe later in the shift to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
Aside from the goal in overtime that gave the Maple Leafs their first straight win in 19 years, the Toronto captain and his wife recently welcomed their third child, a daughter named Rae.
“An absolute whirlwind for him,” said Toronto center Ryan O’Reilly before the game.
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MAURICE LOOKS BACK
Panthers head coach Paul Maurice sat behind the bench as the Carolina Hurricanes led the Maple Leafs in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals.
“I don’t think we’ve given up a five-a-side in this series,” he said. “It was back when you could get away with a clutch and a grab.
“We were really good at it.”