Nick Cousins scored 15:32 into overtime and Sergei Bobrovsky made 50 saves as the Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series on Friday to secure qualify for the Eastern Conference Finals.
Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verhaeghe each had a goal and an assist to help the Panthers build a 2-0 lead in the first period.
Morgan Rielly and William Nylander scored for the Maple Leafs, who had advanced to the playoffs for the first time in 19 years when they beat Tampa Bay in the first round. Rookie goaltender Joseph Woll made 41 saves in his first home playoff start.
In the extra period, Cousins buried his second playoff goal on Woll’s short side to send the Panthers to the conference finals for the first time since 1996.
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Florida – the team with the fewest points to qualify for the playoffs – won all three games in Toronto and improved to 6-1 on the road in the playoffs after beating the records of the Boston Bruins . The Panthers next face the Carolina Hurricanes, who also beat the New Jersey Devils in five games.
Woll was coming off a 24-save effort in a Game 4 victory that avoided the sweep.
STARS INCH CLOSER TO WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL WITH GAME 5 VICTORY OVER KRAKEN
The Maple Leafs now face an uncertain offseason despite their breakthrough against the Lightning. General manager Kyle Dubas does not have a contract beyond June 30, while there have also been rumors about coach Sheldon Keefe’s future. Both Nylander and Auston Matthews have a year remaining on their contracts and can sign extensions from July 1, while star striker Mitch Marner’s no-move clause comes into effect on the same day.
Toronto’s overpowered offense – including the so-called ‘Core Four’ of Matthews, Nylander, Marner and John Tavares – has scored just three times in the series for a team that has tallied just 14 goals over the course of of its last seven playoff games, including a paltry 10 against the Panthers.
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The Leafs finished the playoffs 1-5 at home.