On Wednesday night, the Florida Panthers suffered the first loss of their second-round matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 2-1. The Maple Leafs deployed a defensive-heavy strategy in Game 4 – and the game played right into their hands.
Both teams looked to be taking a conservative approach to the game in the first period, with neither team tallying a score on the otherwise weak goaltending options both teams have.
The Panthers rolled out an aging Sergei Bobrovsky, who has looked like his youth has been revitalized at times this postseason, but has also made plenty of blunders that have led to preventable goals.
Maple Leafs Stars
William Nylander of the Maple Leafs would find the first goal of the night just 3:29 into the second period, and the stadium fell lifeless. The Panthers, to that point, had not presented much of a threat to the young Joseph Woll for the Maple Leafs, who was making his first NHL postseason start.
Once the Leafs were able to score the game’s first goal, top players like Auston Matthews and John Tavarez were notably making an extra effort to not make any mistakes and keep the puck in the Panthers’ zone while not being overly aggressive.
The Leafs were able to hold their 1-0 lead into the second intermission, which had fans in Sunrise feeling restless.
The Panthers would come out much more energized in the third period and were testing woll until Mithcell Marner found the back of the net for the maple leafs 10:03 into the third period to make the game 2-0. The stadium and panthers team looked completed deflated, but the team was rewarded with a power play
The Panthers were able to create some of their best chances of the game with the man advantage, and at 12:13 into the third period, Sam Reinhart was able to squeak one past the surging Leafs goalie.
The lone Panthers goal was assisted by Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett. Sam Bennett finished with a respectable 4 shots on goal, but Panthers assistant captain Matthew Tkachuk was nowhere to be found in the potential closeout game, with 0 shots on net and 2 PIM.
The Panthers will now take to the road for game 5 to finish the series in Toronto. I think the series more than likely makes it back to Florida for a Game 6, where the Panthers will have to feel that is their best chance to advance to the Conference Finals.