Maple Leafs stay alive with big Game 4 win in Florida

May 11 2023, 1:38 am

They’re still in a deep hole, but the Toronto Maple Leafs will have at least one win to show from their first trip to the second round of the playoffs in 19 years.

The Maple Leafs beat back the Florida Panthers’ brooms with a 2-1 win in Game 4 at FLA Live Arena on Wednesday. The Panthers’ lead in the best-of-seven series is now 3-1.

A fortunate bounce helped Toronto open the scoring on a power play in the second period. Michael Bunting tried to send the puck along the boards behind Florida’s net, but it instead hit an official and redirected right to William Nylander in front of the net.

With just under 10 minutes remaining in the third, Mitch Marner gave the Leafs a huge insurance goal with a long-range shot that snuck by Sergei Bobrovsky.

The goal was Marner’s third of the playoffs. The other two came back in Game 2 of the first round. After a scorching start to the postseason in which he had 10 points through the first four games, Marner entered Game 4 with just two points in five games since.

The breathing room didn’t last long for the Leafs, though. Sam Reinhart, the overtime hero for the Panthers in Game 3, scored on a power play just two minutes later to make it a one-goal game again.

Reinhart’s goal made it a more stressful finish for Leafs fans, but Toronto was able to hold on and keep its season alive.

After having to come in for an injured Ilya Samsonov early in the second period of Game 3, rookie goaltender Joseph Woll made his first career playoff start on Wednesday. Woll became the first rookie goalie to start a playoff game for the Maple Leafs since Felix Potvin in 1993.

Head coach Sheldon Keefe went with Woll over veteran Matt Murray, who hasn’t played since April 2 due to injury but was healthy enough to dress as the backup on Wednesday. Woll rewarded Keefe with a solid 24-save performance in the victory.

This was the Leafs’ first win in a playoff game deeper than the first round of the playoffs since April 30, 2004, when they beat the Philadelphia Flyers by a score of 3-1 in Game 4 of their second-round series.

The Toronto victory means the series will move back to Scotiabank Arena for Game 5 on Friday. The Maple Leafs will need to improve on their 1-4 home record in these playoffs if they’re to stave off elimination a second time.

Jack WeberJack Weber

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