Cousins Scores in OT to Send Panthers Into Eastern Conference Final After 3-2 Win Over Maple Leafs

TORONTO (AP). Nick Cousins' overtime goal at 15:32 was the difference in the Florida Panthers' 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. The Panthers will now advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

Aaron Ekblad, Carter Verhaeghe and the Panthers each scored and assisted a goal to give them a 2-0 advantage in the first quarter.

The Maple Leafs won the first round of the playoffs by beating Tampa Bay. In his first playoff appearance at home, rookie goalie Joseph Woll made 41 saves.

Cousins scored his second playoff goal off the rush on Woll's short side to send the Panthers into the conference finals, for the first since 1996.

Florida, the team that had the least points needed to qualify for postseason, won all three of its games in Toronto. It improved to 6-0 on the road after beating the Boston Bruins and also smashed the record. The Panthers are next up against the Carolina Hurricanes who beat the New Jersey Devils also in five games.

Woll had just made 24 saves in Game 4, avoiding the sweep.

The Maple Leafs are now facing an uncertain offseason, despite their victory over the Lightning. The Maple Leafs' offseason is uncertain despite their win against the Lightning. General manager Kyle Dubas does not have a contract that extends beyond June 30. There have also been murmurs about Sheldon Keefe's future. Nylander and Auston Matthews have one-year contracts remaining and can sign extension as of July 1. Mitch Marner, another star forward, has a no-movement clause that kicks in on the same date.

Toronto's powerful offense, which includes the 'Core Four,' Matthews, Nylander Marner, and John Tavares, scored only three goals in the series. The team had totaled 14 goals during its final seven games of the playoffs, including just 10 against the Panthers.

The Maple Leafs ended the postseason with a 1-5 record at home.

Florida took a 1-0 lead on a Florida power play at 3 minutes 31 seconds of the first period. Ekblad fired a one-timer, his first ever shot.

The Maple Leafs were able to push back and have a few great chances with two man advantages but could not solve Bobrovsky.

Verhaeghe added his fifth goal on his own one-timer with 3:42 remaining in the first period after Toronto's Timothy Liljegren dropped the puck near his blue line.

Rielly's fourth point shot cut the Panthers lead in half at 7:50 in the second.

Toronto appeared to tie the game with 2:49 left in the period, when Rielly seemed to have pushed puck over line close to the rush. After a lengthy video review, the call of no goal on the ice stood. The officials had deemed the play dead before the puck crossed the line. This led some fans to throw water bottles, rally towels and drinks all over the ice.

Marner's shot, which was deflected shortly after the game resumed, hit the post.

Nylander tied the game with 4:37 remaining in the third when he received a pass in stride from Tavares and beat Bobrovsky at a tight angle from upstairs. His fourth postseason goal sparked wild celebrations in the Scotiabank Arena and on the streets of Maple Leaf Square.

The Maple Leafs were unable to score another goal.


On Friday, it was exactly 17 years ago that Paul Maurice, the Panthers' coach at the time, took the same position with the Maple Leafs. After two seasons, he was fired by Toronto after the 2007-08 season.