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Panthers pounce on Maple Leafs in OT to grab 3-0 series lead

SUNRISE, Fla. – Sam Reinhart scored 3:02 into overtime and the Florida Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Sunday night to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Reinhart dumped the puck off the boards behind the net to set up his game-winner, taking a pass back from Anton Lundell and scoring to give Florida its first 3-0 series lead in 27 years.

Anthony Duclair and Carter Verhaeghe scored for Florida. Sam Lafferty and Erik Gustafsson scored for Toronto.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 22 shots for the Panthers. Joseph Woll stopped 18 of the 21 he faced for the Maple Leafs after he relieved starter Ilya Samsonov, who stopped all eight shots he saw before leaving early in the second period with an injury.

Game 4 is Wednesday night.

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Reinhart’s goal for that 3-0 lead means it’s time for the Maple Leafs to spend the next three days hearing about the most dreaded of stats three games into a best-of-seven – the one about how only four clubs have erased such a deficit in hockey history. Toronto is one of those four, coming from 3-0 down to beat Detroit in the 1942 Cup title series.

Samsonov left the ice 37 seconds into the second period with an undisclosed injury. He was ruled out before the third period started.

The play started with Samsonov stopping a shot by Duclair, as Verhaeghe came down the slot chasing the rebound.

Verhaeghe got tripped by Toronto’s Luke Schenn, and Schenn also crashed into Samsonov on the same play. Samsonov remained down for more than a minute, eventually got to his feet and skated to the Toronto bench – going directly down the tunnel to the Maple Leafs’ locker room.

Woll replaced Samsonov, coming in cold to face the Florida power play. Woll stopped the first shot he faced, but Duclair scored with 1 second left on the power play to tie the game at 1-1.

Toronto led 1-0 and 2-1, only to see Florida come back with the tying goal each time.

Lafferty one-timed a pass from David Kampf home just 2:26 into the contest to finish off a 2-on-1 and open the scoring.

Duclair tied it on the power play shortly after Samsonov departed, only to see Toronto reclaim the lead when Gustafsson’s wrister caromed in off Marc Staal’s stick midway through the second. Verhaeghe tied it 5 minutes later and to the third they went, tied at 2-2.

AROUND THE RINK

Leafs C Auston Matthews took a puck off the outside of his right wrist in the third period, was shaken up and remained in the game – appearing to not even miss a shift. … Toronto is now 34-47 all-time in Game 3s. Florida is now 5-8. … There were only two penalties called in regulation, both against Toronto in the second period.

WOLL TIES

There is one big tie between Woll and the Panthers – he was Boston College’s go-to netminder for three years, before Spencer Knight took over for the Eagles in the 2019-20 season.

Knight has been with the Panthers for parts of three seasons and has been out since February in the NHL’s player assistance program.

THE CAPTAIN

Miami Heat captain Udonis Haslem – wearing a Duclair jersey – was at the game with some teammates including Heat guard Gabe Vincent, and did his part to get fans engaged by beating a drum at one end of the rink shortly before game time.

“I got cool with Duclair a couple years ago, and told him that when I had time I would come out,” said Haslem, whose Heat lead New York in a second-round series 2-1 with Game 4 in Miami on Monday. “It’s amazing here right now. South Florida sports, we always feel like the underdogs, but these guys on the Panthers, the heart they play with, it’s inspiring to see.”

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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