The Toronto Maple Leafs now need a miracle.
Sam Reinhart’s overtime winner gave the Panthers a 3-2 win on Sunday and a 3-0 series lead. A fantastic backup performance from Joseph Woll wasn’t enough to secure a road win when they needed it most. Toronto never trailed before the overtime winner, but Florida outscored them five-to-five and the Leafs never had a power play. While a few players impressed, Toronto’s $10 million forwards didn’t look like $10 million forwards. Toronto must have been the most desperate team, but it was Florida that deserved the win.
Woll entered the game in the first minute of the second period and was forced to start shorthanded. He made a nice save on Sam Bennett almost immediately, but Anthony Duclair beat him on a breakaway to tie the game:
It was a great decision and he came into the game cold, so it’s hard to blame Woll for that one. He made 11 saves in the period, including one on another breakaway opportunity for Duclair, but was again beaten by a Carter Verhaeghe deflection midway through the second. Again, the goal was not on him:
Woll kept the game tied at 2-2 going into the second intermission, and he made a big save on Brandon Montour with 10 seconds left in the frame. He single-handedly took the Leafs to overtime with a massive stoppage after a massive stoppage in the third:
He gave his team a chance to win.
Lafferty stayed in the lineup over Zach Aston-Reese and Wayne Simmonds, and he immediately rewarded his coach for the decision. He opened the scoring two and a half minutes after David Kämpf found him with a cross pass on a two-on-one run. His goal seemed to give him extra confidence, and he had another two-to-one chance with Kämpf halfway through the second.
Kämpf got an assist by throwing a pass to Lafferty on a two-on-one. He was also instrumental in Toronto’s second goal, as he headed towards the net looking for a touch. Erik Gustafsson’s pass never reached him, but it deflected off a defender’s stick and into the net. He won his first ten faceoffs and appeared to be winning puck battle after puck battle.
Nylander was one of Toronto’s best performers in Game 1, although he didn’t make the scoresheet. Both teams failed to generate many dangerous chances during those minutes, but he had some impressive entries and showed his ability to protect defenders in the cycle. He was finally rewarded in the second, as he made an impressive entrance as his teammates changed before sending the puck to Gustafsson for an assist. He was easily one of the best players on his team.
The NHL playoff leader in hits only had three, but his line was solid defensively. He made a fine defensive play on Sam Bennett in overtime and blocked Florida’s top forwards during his minutes.
Järnkrok made a solid play on the forecheck on his first shift to regain possession. He then found Jake McCabe with a cross pass late in the first, but his teammate was unable to convert. Other than that, his minutes through two periods were relatively uneventful.
Rielly extended his point streak to eight games by dispatching Kämpf and Lafferty on a two-on-one. He sent the same two players on a two against one in the second but was awarded a penalty in the final minutes. He was not on a conceded goal.
Kerfoot finished with 17:22 of ice time and had a “third assist” on Toronto’s first goal. His line was good defensively, but he didn’t create many scoring chances.
Schenn made a stretch pass to send Auston Matthews on a two-on-one in the opening seconds, but he hit the post. He lifted a Panthers forward’s stick to stop a dangerous chance late in the first, but was awarded a penalty and collided with Ilya Samsonov to start the second. He struggled a bit in overtime as he blocked the puck twice in the opening minutes.
Holl was on the ball for Florida’s power-play goal, but I mostly blame McCabe. He had a well-timed pinch that led to a good chance for Matthews in third but also had a rough turnover soon after:
O’Reilly’s line was strong defensively in the first period, and they spent most of their minutes in the offensive zone. They failed to convert that offensive zone time into dangerous chances, but they were definitely a net positive. His second period was exactly the same story, but he gave one of the worst giveaways of his career late in the third and Woll had to bail him out to send the game into overtime.
Bunting’s line was ineffective in the first two periods. It wasn’t necessarily his fault, but when you play with Matthews and Marner, expectations are high. He got off to a better start in third, as he found Matthews in the slot five minutes later, but his teammate couldn’t capitalize.
Gustafsson made his series debut as Sheldon Keefe went for an 11-7 formation, and he played just 2:36 into the first. His minutes were much more eventful in the second, as he scored to put the Leafs ahead seven minutes later. He tried to find Kämpf in front, but his pass deflected off the defender’s stick and into:
His offensive talent stood out in a major way, but he popped the puck on the offensive blue line later and Duclair was gifted with a breakaway. He tossed the puck again to the offensive blue line midway through the third and was lucky not to be called for a penalty. He then put a pass into the skates of TJ Brodie with six minutes left, which forced Woll into a big save.
The Arresting Pair (Jake McCabe and TJ Brodie)
McCabe was shaky in the first, with a few turnovers that led to plenty of time in the defensive zone. He had a good chance on a two-on-one late in the period but failed to convert. However, he failed to cover Duclair in the neutral zone to start the second, and the Panthers tied the game with a breakaway goal. Brodie was close to winning overtime and wasn’t exactly great on the game.
Tavares didn’t spend much time in the attacking zone in the first period, but he made a great breakout pass to send his teammates on a two-on-one. However, his team faltered for his minutes in the first two periods, and he didn’t provide enough offensively.
Matthews hit the crossbar on a two-for-one twenty seconds, but was otherwise silent in the first period. He had a rough start in the second, as he couldn’t drive the puck deep, and the Panthers quickly transitioned the puck for a two-on-one. While Florida didn’t score on the play, Schenn took a penalty during the stretch and the Panthers scored on the resulting power play. Samsonov was also injured on the game.
Matthews was on the ice for Florida’s second goal and was covering Verhaeghe when he deflected a shot from the point past Woll. He made solid play to steal the puck from Aaron Ekblad late in the second, then put on solid defensive play soon after. However, the Leafs caved in his minutes and he didn’t have a shot on goal until the third period. Bunting found it in the slot five minutes into the third, but Sergei Bobrovsky made a great save.
The Leafs gave in during Marner’s minutes and he had a few turnovers that led to opposing chances. Lack of penalties from both sides limited his minutes, but he was pretty much invisible.
Giordano only played 7:47. He caught three blocked shots, but made no difference.
Samsonov stopped all seven shots he faced in the first and was kept on his toes. The Panthers missed the net a few times and most of the period was played on the Toronto side.
He made a big save on Duclair within the opening minute of the second, but was injured when Luke Schenn rammed into him a second later. He did not return but deserves a high mark for his limited performance.
Final grade: F
The Leafs must have looked like the most desperate team, but they only managed 13 shots in the first 40 minutes. They didn’t get a power play, and the Matthews line and Tavares line struggled to get into the offensive zone. O’Reilly played some solid stoppage minutes before his horrific giveaway in the third, but William Nylander was the only star forward who looked dangerous. Given the performances of Samsonov and Woll, the Leafs should have been able to pull off this game.
They didn’t seem to be treating it like a must-win, and now they’ll have to win four must-win games in a row. Toronto needed Matthews, Marner, Tavares and O’Reilly to lead the way offensively, not Lafferty and Kämpf. It wasn’t a big loss, and some players played well individually, but collectively I can only give them a failing grade.
What’s next for the Leafs?
Game 4 is Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet.
(Photo: Sam Navarro/USA Today)