Five Takeaways from Panthers’ Game 1 win over Maple Leafs

TORONTO — Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs officially got underway Tuesday night at Scotiabank Arena. The Toronto Maple Leafs played host to the Florida Panthers as the two began their first ever  playoff series against one another. 


The Panthers walked out of Game 1 tonight with a 4-2 win and a 1-0 series thanks in large part to the hometown Ontario raised Panthers. 

Here’s tonight’s takeaways.


Tkachuk, Bennett, Cousins line is on fire

The Panthers are a few games into this new line combination, with Nick Cousins playing alongside the dynamic duo of Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett. 


Florida’s second line was the best trio on the ice in the first period. Tkachuk and Bennett are both players who dominate when working the puck down low in the offensive zone. Nick Cousins doesn’t over complicate his game, which makes him a good support player with those two.


Nick Cousins scored the first goal of the series tonight just that way. The line went to work down below the net – winning another  puck battle while being outnumbered, eerily similar to the Game 7 OT winning goal in Boston. 


Cousins freed himself from his defender in front of Ilya Samsonov’s net, leading to a fairly easy backhand shot for his first goal of the playoffs. 


On Florida’s second goal of the game it was much of the same. While Nick Cousins wasn’t on the bench, Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Bennett had a sort of double screen in front of Toronto’s net. Aaron Ekblad’s point shot was tipped in by Bennett, giving Florida a  2-0 lead. 


Florida gives up another two-goal lead… but survives again

Florida had a 2-0 lead eight minutes into the second period on the road. The Toronto crowd was stun and out of it… for 11 seconds.


Immediately following Florida’s second goal,  the Leafs won the faceoff, quickly entered the zone and fed 20-year-old rookie Matthew Knies in the slot. 

Knies calmly waited out Sergei Bobrovsky to tuck away his first career NHL playoff goal, which was also his first ever goal in the NHL.


Later in the period, a defensive zone collapse by Florida led to Micheal Bunting having a wide open look at Sergei Bobrovsky. The Scarborough, ON. native tied game with his first playoff goal of the season.


Last game in Boston, Florida also had a two goal lead and the Bruins were able to not only tie it at two, but take the lead. 


Florida wasn’t going to let that happen again – Toronto didn’t hold the lead once tonight.


Sergei Bobrovsky stands tall in fourth-straight win

The Panthers’ goaltender won three elimination games in a row against Boston to get Florida into the second-round.


Bobrovsky got the nod again tonight as Florida’s playoff journey shifted to Toronto. 


Early into Game 1 Toronto had the Panthers on their heels. The Leafs two early power plays produced a plethora of chances around Bobrovsky, but he was able to close the door on most shots, while the Leafs had a few bounce wide.


Toronto peppered Bob in the third, putting 14 shots on goal. In the dying minutes of regulation, the Leafs had sustained pressure in the Florida zone – a goal looked to be coming. 


Unfortunately for Toronto, Bob looked a lot more like the goalie who was winning Vezina trophies in Columbus down the stretch. 


Bobrovsky finished the night with 34 saves on 36 shots, including all 14 in the third. 


Ontario Panther Party

There’s a lot of players on the Florida Panthers with Southern Ontario roots. 


Playing against what was many of their childhood team tonight in the playoffs didn’t slow down the Ontario born Cats tonight. 


Florida scored four goals – all of which came from players born within a few hours of Toronto.


Nick Cousins (Belleville, ON.), Sam Bennett (Holland Landing, ON.) Carter Verhaeghe (Hamilton, ON.) and Brandon Montour (Brantford, ON.) all scored in Game 1. 


“We just got a lot of Ontario boys,”  Brandon Monotur said postgame. “We enjoy playing these games, playing in Toronto.”


Panthers get the early series lead and another road win

The Panthers haven’t won the first game of a playoff series since 1997.


Florida also didn’t lead the Bruins series until they won the whole thing in Game 7 overtime. 


Tonight they not only broke that Game 1 winless drought, but they also grabbed that win on the road. 


The Panthers have been better on the road in their eight playoff games than they have at home. In their five road games, they won four of them – while their three home games only garnered a single win, which came in Game 6 last round. 


For the first time in a very, very long time, Florida doesn’t have to fight back early on in a playoff series, they are in the drivers’ seat.

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