Nylander, who tied the score at 5:59 of the third period, took the puck from Conor Timmins and busted up the gut, wheeled around Carter Verhaeghe, went backhand to forehand and slipped the winner just inside the post past the outstretched leg of Sergei Bobrovsky to send the partisan crowd into a frenzy.
With some assistance for the referees, who put Toronto on power play seven times and awarded them a penalty shot, the Maple Leafs rallied back from a 4-2 deficit after pulling Matt Murray for Ilya Samonsov early in the middle frame.
The Panthers got off to a fast start to grab the early lead. Aaron Ekblad smartly pinched and fed Verhaeghe, who cut across the right circle and fired a shot over Murray’s glove at the 1:52 mark.
Former Panther Dryden Hunt equalized 46 seconds later after Morgan Rielly caught up to Zach Aston-Reese’s errant crossing pass and sent the puck hard towards the crease where it deflected in off of Hunt’s skate. It was the well-traveled Hunt’s first goal as a Bud after scoring once each for the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche this season.
Anton Lundell put the Cats back on top at 12:34 when he followed up after Aleksander Barkov was denied by Murray on a shorthanded breakaway. That’s goals in back-to-back games for Lundell.
Once again, the Maple Leafs answered back quickly. Not long after Gustav Forsling came out of the penalty box, Radko Gudas went in and Alexander Kerfoot scored on a rebound after Bobrovsky couldn’t handle Calle Jarnkrok’s shot at 15:10. Timothy Liljegren’s drew the second assist on the play.
Florida took its third lead of the opening stanza at 18:04 thanks to Josh Mahura. Grigori Denisenko did some good work down low and sent the back to Gudas at right point. Gudas’ shot wide caromed off the back boards and then the left side boards allowing Mahura to tee up and hammer the puck home.
The Panthers would chase Murray 1:41 into the second with Bobby McMann off for high-sticking. After some back and forth passing with Sam Reinhart on the left side, Brandon Montour crossed to Barkov, who took a couple strides in from the right point and unleashed a bomb of a wrister that sent Murray to the bench with 4 saves on 8 shots.
The flurry of goals would end until Auston Matthews beat Bobrovsky from the lower left circle, by finishing off a pretty backhand dish from Nylander, with three seconds left in the period and Gudas serving a late charging minor.
After missing high on a penalty shot 34 seconds in the third. a heady Nylander got the tying goal after Bobrovsky blunted Mitchell Marner’s drive with his leg pad and the puck went upwards and struck the Swede’s helmet and tumbled into the net. Talk about puck luck...
Mixed feelings about this one as the Cats blew another lead by failing to add more goals over the final 38:19 of the game to secure both points. They were outscored (1-0) and outshot (9-4) in the third, a recurring issue, but after playing the day before in Buffalo and constantly killing penalties, it’s more than a little understandable. Florida was running on empty (running blind) by the end of this one, so overall, a gallant effort (for the most part) to get to overtime and capture three of four points on a tough back-to-back. That’s the fifth time the Panthers have failed to build a three-winning streak this season, but we do have a three-game point streak, so, there’s that. ♪ Always look on the bright side of life ♪
Rakes & Bags
- First Star William Nylander had a hand in the final three Toronto goals to carry his team to victory. Nylander’s third period marker ended a six-game goal drought.
- Ilya Samsonov got the win in relief of Matt Murray by stopping all 11 shots he faced over the final 40:12 of action.
- Aleksander Barkov extended his point streak to five games. The Cats captain has three goals and four assists over the span and is now up to 37 points in 36 games played.
- Carter Verhaeghe’s game-opener gave him goals in back-to-back games. Verhaeghe matched John Tavares with a game-high six shots. Impressive considering the Panthers only totaled 19 as a team.
- Speaking of Tavares, his secondary assist on Nylander’s overtime winner extended his point streak to seven games.
- Sergei Bobrovsky made his fifth straight start (in eight days) and finished with 32 stops.
- Game one of the season series was a fun one. Read more about at Pension Plan Puppets.