There is no better game to get your first NHL playoff start than a do or die game four. Win, and you're a hero who keeps the post-season alive. Lose, and it's not your fault, you're just a poor rookie thrown into a crazy situation.
Joseph Woll, this is your time.
Woll is tested early and often by the Panthers top line, but he turns away the early shots denying the Panthers the first goal of the game.
The Maple Leafs get a couple shots but turn up their offense when they hem the Panthers in their end for a minute or so, with the Leafs top line cycling the puck around and shooting, but Sergei Bobrovsky makes the necessary saves.
The game is relatively calm, until TJ Brodie is checked post-whistle. That gets some backs up, but all that comes from it is some whistles.
Both teams are defending well, clearing the zone quickly after each entry, and are being very careful on their play for the most part. Panthers don't want to fall behind, and risk losing the series win and the Leafs want to play on Friday at home.
We go a few minutes, almost five, without a shot on net. The commitment to defense is strong. Aaron Ekblad is feeling hurt tonight, holding himself and leaning over after play stops. Morgan Rielly left the bench briefly to get some equipment fixed.
The Panthers are turning up the heat getting the crowd on their feet on a few chances but the Leafs all rush back with them and block the shots before they get to Woll.
After ten minutes, they finally get one though and Woll makes the save.
Justin Holl is the first player on the score sheet when he gets a high sticking call while trying to clear the front of the net.
The Maple Leafs penalty killers are clogging the passing lanes, rushing the puck carriers, and keeping their feet moving and it pays off when a pass gets intercepted and a good 30 seconds of the PK is spent in the Panthers zone.
Woll makes a big save off a Brandon Montour point shot, with plenty of shoving coming post-whistle.
The Leafs keep the Panthers at bay until the first period ends and the Panthers will get six seconds of a power play to start the second period.
After one period shots are 7-6 Florida.
The Panthers don't score in those six seconds, and after a little Panthers attempt at scoring the Leafs rush the end with a four on one...and don't get a shot off. Wow.
After 110 minutes, or two complete games, the Maple Leafs are getting a power play after Michael Bunting gets high sticked. He's bleeding but it's only a two minute minor.
The Leafs can't get it together to score, and Mitch Marner loses the puck almost causing a Panthers breakaway.
They get it back and head back to the offensive zone, and after Bobrovsky falls over, William Nylander opens the scoring and makes it 1-0 Leafs.
Aleksander Barkov is another naughty Panther, called for holding Mitch Marner and the Leafs are off to another power play.
The Leafs pound Bobrovsky with shots but nothing gets past him.
No goal, but a great power play for the Leafs. And a good penalty kill? Panthers fans are on their feet and changing hard after the saves that were made.
Rudko fucking Gudas. The Panthers get a great chance to score but Woll makes the save. The whistle blows and then Gudas throws a hit and launches David Kampf into the boards. Kampf leaves the game for the dressing room and the outcome of this?
TJ Brodie gets a call for holding. Holding while he was lying on the ground. Absolutely wonderful reffing.
Joseph Woll takes this personally and makes some big saves to deny the Panthers.
No goals because they didn't deserve one.
The Leafs are holding the lead well, and trying to extend it with plenty of chances against Bobrovsky.
The second period ends with the Maple Leafs up 1-0, and leading in shots 19-15.
In the first five minutes of the third the Panthers put Woll to the test, and he comes up strong, making standard saves and wild saves, doing everything he an to keep the Leafs in it.
Jake McCabe briefly leaves the game making us worry another Leaf is injured by the Panthers, but he's back after having a skate blade fixed.
With the arena sounding like it's an even split between fans, both teams are getting their side u and cheering with scoring attempts and saves. It's not a constant flow of offense but when it comes it comes fast, hard, and scary.
Midway through the third period, Mitch Marner finishes on one of those chances, and gets a shot through traffic to double the Leafs lead.
Oops, wrong goal. Hang on.
That's better. 2-0 Leafs.
Alex Kerfoot gets called for tripping Marc Staal, and the Panthers get another power play. They're 0/2 so far tonight, and the Leafs penalty kill comes close to making it 3-0 early on in the Panthers power play.
Florida regroups in the Leafs end and circles around until a save slips past Woll, sits in the crease for a second and Sam Reinhart finds it and knocks it into the net.
2-1 Maple Leafs with 7:47 left.
Toronto calls a time out to let everyone have a breather.
When play resumes the Panthers are in the Leafs zone, Noel Acciari gets down to block a shot, and after the whistle he heads to the dressing room, but comes back a few shifts later.
The Maple Leafs aren't giving up, getting a couple chances that get the fans making various noises based on their affiliations, but as we get to the final two minutes the Leafs keep the lead.
The Panthers pick up the pace, knowing they have the chance to get their first ever playoff series sweep. Carter Verheaghe, former friend of the Leafs, does his best but keeps coming up short.
The Panthers pull the goalie with just over a minute left. The Leafs don't score with the empt net but neither does Florida. Leafs win 2-1. They're still alive and we all get to go through this again on Friday night.
As the timer hits zero, Morgan Rielly get shit behind the Leafs nete and a brawl erupts. Matthew Tkachuk goes for his former line mate in London Mitch Marner, Sam Bennett continues to be a scumbag throwing punches on a Leaf who is pinned to the ground by Brandon Montour.
The players are pulled apart. The Leafs celebrate Joesph Wolls victory at centre ice.
Game five is 7:00PM on Friday night in Toronto.
The comeback continues.