Leafs lose again, Florida takes playoff series stranglehold

May 5 2023, 1:41 am

The Toronto Maple Leafs got their dream start in Game 2, but it wasn’t enough as the Florida Panthers won 3-2 to take a 2-0 lead in the second-round series.

Gustav Forsling scored the winning goal in the second period after the two teams exchanged hot starts throughout the first two frames.

The Maple Leafs scored twice in the first six minutes of the game, while Florida rebounded at the end of the first and the start of the second to take a 3-2 lead which they carried into the third.

Toronto rookie Matthew Knies was forced to leave the game after the first period with an injury sustained when Florida forward Sam Bennett took him to the ice in a headlock. The Leafs announced that Knies wouldn’t return for the second period.

No further update was immediately available.

The Leafs didn’t wait long to open the scoring in the opening frame, finding a goal just 2:20 into the game when Alex Kerfoot jumped on a rebound off Luke Schenn’s point shot, sliding the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky for the early lead.

It took 5,432 days since the Leafs drafted Schenn in 2008 for him to score his first playoff points for the club. Of course, he also won two Stanley Cups during that time with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Toronto’s quick start didn’t stop there either, as after going 1-for-9 on their previous nine power plays, the Leafs connected on a man advantage, as Mitch Marner spun before finding a pass to Ryan O’Reilly, who fired a one-time shot into the goal.

Yet, the chaotic first period continued, with Florida getting on the board with Sam Reinhart setting up Anton Lundell to beat Ilya Samsonov to cut the lead in half.

While Toronto’s start powered them to an early lead, the second-period collapse stole all the good times for Leafs fans.

Marner took a tripping penalty at the end of the first period, sending Florida to the power play to start the second. Just 18 seconds into the frame, Aleksander Barkov floated a puck over Samsonov’s glove on the advantage.

Soon after, Gustav Forsling scored the third and eventual winning goal.

On the second goal, Matthew Tkachuk picked up his ninth assist of the playoffs, bringing him up to 15 points, second in the NHL’s postseason.

While the Leafs started the game well and got some positive performances, with Marner and John Tavares putting five shots on goal, it wasn’t enough for the group to win their first second-round game in 19 years.

“This one was disappointing, we were rolling early in the game, and then we just give it back to them; those are things that we haven’t done,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said post-game. “You just can’t do [that] if you’re serious about winning.”

After struggling to find consistency through the regular season, Bobrovsky has hit his stride in the Panthers goal against the Leafs, stopping 34 shots in Game 2. Meanwhile, Samsonov pushed away 26 pucks.

“I don’t give a f*ck,” Samsonov said post-game on Bobrovsky’s performance. “It doesn’t matter. I’m doing my work, and he’s doing his work.”

The last time the Maple Leafs won a second-round game was April 30, 2004, with Mats Sundin scoring a pair in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Leafs will head down to Sunrise, Florida, for Game 3 on Sunday as they look to avoid falling three games behind in the series.

Ben SteinerBen Steiner

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