Maple Leafs avoid elimination by topping Panthers 2-1 in Game 4

Toronto’s Joseph Woll stops 24 shots in first playoff start
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll (60) watches the puck as defenseman TJ Brodie falls...
Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Joseph Woll (60) watches the puck as defenseman TJ Brodie falls to the ice during the second period of Game 4 of the team's NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers, Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)(AP)
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 10:20 PM EDT
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Joseph Woll stopped 24 shots in his first playoff start, Mitch Marner and William Nylander had the goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs staved off elimination by beating the Florida Panthers 2-1 in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night.

Nylander was the beneficiary of an odd bounce for a power-play score in the second period, Marner scored midway through the third and Woll did the rest as he took the place of injured starter Ilya Samsonov.

Sam Reinhart scored for Florida, which got 23 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky. The Panthers still lead the series 3-1, with Game 5 in Toronto on Friday night.

Woll, who turns 25 on July 12, was bidding to become the youngest Toronto goalie to have a playoff shutout since Felix Potvin — then 23 — stopped 42 shots to beat Chicago 3-0 on May 9, 1995.

He was 7:47 away from pulling it off.

Reinhart — who had the OT winner in Game 3 — took a quick pass from Matthew Tkachuk and found a way to just get the puck through Woll's leg pads for a power-play score, cutting Toronto's lead to 2-1.

Nylander's surname is pronounced KNEE-lander, which seemed fitting on the opening goal.

Toronto went more than five full periods — 107 minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact, going back to late in the second period of Game 2 — without a power play until Florida's Eetu Luostarinen got called for high-sticking the Leafs' Michael Bunting early in the second period.

And they cashed in, thanks to the hockey gods who oversee crazy bounces.

Bunting tried dumping the puck around the net from the right-wing boards, only to have it bounce off the knee of referee Jon McIsaac as he tried to get out of the way. It skipped to the front of the net, where Nylander knocked it past Bobrovsky for a 1-0 Toronto lead.

It was the first goal of the series for Toronto's big four players of Nylander, Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Marner.

The score stayed 1-0 going into the third, though Toronto had a big chance to go up two in the final seconds of the second period. Tavares got loose down the center of the ice on a breakaway, but Bobrovsky knocked away his attempt to the stick side to keep Florida within one.

Marner made it 2-0 with 9:57 left, and the Leafs held on. They haven't been swept in a playoff series since 1980 — a best-of-five against the Minnesota North Stars — and not in a best-of-seven since Montreal ousted them in four games in 1979.

Florida has never swept a playoff series. The Panthers also haven't clinched a series on home ice since 1996.

Associated Press 2023