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Cousins lifts Panthers to 3-2 overtime win over Maple Leafs

Nick Cousins blew a wrist shot by Joseph Woll with 4:28 left in the first overtime to lift the Florida Panthers to a glorious 3-2 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.

Defenseman Radko Gudas keyed the series-winning goal by breaking up Noel Acciari’s pass/shot in his own end, giving the puck to Cousins, and then flying down the ice to drive the net at the other end, bringing Calle Jankrok and Leafs Nation to their collective knees.

Cousins opened and closed the scoring in this series against the Maple Leafs, sparking the Cats in Game 1 and ending it in Game 5. That’s $1.1 million well-spent by general manager Bill Zito.

After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, Toronto rallied on a second period power-play goal from Morgan Rielly, which went in off of Cousins’ shin pad and a beautiful finish by William Nylander that came with 4:27 left in regulation.

The Panthers opened the scoring 3:31 into the tilt when Carter Verhaeghe passed to Gustav Forsling, who faked a shoot before sending the puck to Aaron Ekblad in the left circle. Woll got a lot of Ekblad’s one-timer, but not enough to keep it from dribbling over the goal line with Jake McCabe off for high-sticking Eetu Luostarinen’s face.

Verhaeghe put the Cats up by with 3:42 left in the opening frame when won a bouncing puck from Timothy Lilegren and got it to Anthony Duclair. The Duke returned the puck to Verhaeghe, who sniped Woll with another one-timer. Ekblad drew the secondary assist on Verhaeghe’s fifth of the playoffs.

And what about Bob? After regaining the net from Alek Lyon, Sergei Bobrovsky has gone 7-2 and made 50 saves to help his club eliminate the Maple Leafs.

The Panthers are the second team to advance to third round where they will face the Carolina Hurricanes. It will be the first playoff meeting between the two clubs. Florida becomes the fifth team in NHL history to face a top-four club in each of its first three series of a postseason. The Cats also become the 11th team in NHL history to face three of the NHL’s top four teams in one playoff year (BOS: No. 1; TOR: No. 4; and CAR No. 2). No team has ever faced each of the top four clubs from the regular season standings

After an extremely bumpy regular season, all of the sudden this has turned into the second-best campaign in franchise history… Wow!!!

Rakes & Bags

  • Sergei Bobrovsky became the second goaltender in franchise history with a 50-save performance, joining ‘The Beezer’ John Vanbiesbrouck (55 in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup Final). The two-time Vezina winner held Toronto to two goals in every game of the series.
  • The Panthers have won three consecutive playoff series in overtime, including Game 7 of the first round against the Boston Bruins, and Game 6 of the 2022 Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals. Carter Verhaeghe delivered the knockout blow in those two.
  • It looked like Morgan Rielly might’ve scored another late in the second, but a lengthy video review determined the referee had called the play dead prior to the puck crossing the goal line. I know Toronto fans are apoplectic about the call, but it wasn’t like the Maple Leafs didn’t benefit from some puck luck in the series. A bump off the referee in Game 4 allowed William Nylander to score and in last night’s game Reilly’s first goal went in off of Nick Cousins.
  • Hats off to rookie goaltender Joseph Woll, who delivered a second straight quality start. The 24-year-old finished with 40 stops and battened down the hatches after the Cats went up by two, allowing his club to come back.
  • Radko Gudas had himself a game. He set up the series-winner, dished out five hits, had one shot on goal, went plus-two and blocked four shots in 18:18 TOI.
  • For the sadder side of Game 5, head over to FHF sister site Pension Plan Puppets and pull some strings.