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Last year the Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Florida Panthers in the second round of the playoffs.

This season, the Maple Leafs were 3-1 against the Florida Panthers.

These two teams play each other hard, play to win, and know how to get under each others skin. Now, the Toronto Maple Leafs have the chance to hold their first round opponents fate in their hands. If the Florida Panthers lose tonight, the Leafs and Panthers lock in as round one opponents.

Far, far, north from the Everglades, in the harbour known for it's tea parties, the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators are having their own battle. The Bruins are only one point ahead of the Panthers for the division lead. If the Senators pull off the unexpected tonight, and the Panthers beat the Leafs, once again the Maple Leafs will play the Bruins.

What will the Leafs play for? Revenge over last season in round one? Or starting their quest for the Cup by slaying the dragon early?

The Leafs attack Anthony Stolarz early and fast. Mitch Marner comes in, but is denied. Auston Matthews and his merry band of passers crowd the crease and fight hard for the goal, but we end with a stopped puck, and a cross checking penalty for Gustav Forsling.

The powerplay has been the Leafs weakness recently. It was abysmal the past few games especially. Not tonight. The Leafs make quick work with the man advantage, and Mitch Marner rips a high angle shot to break the tie, and put the Leafs up early.

1-0 Toronto.

Matthews, Marner, and Bertuzzi, skate into the Panthers end with one goal in mind. Well, 70 goals in mind. Matthews is almost set up perfectly in front of the net, but he uncharacteristically whiffs on an easy shot and they lose the opportunity.

John Tavares and Matthew Tkachuk tie up at the boards. They won't back down from each other, the Leafs aren't afraid of the Panthers anymore, and they show it lining up with their opponents after they react poorly to the hit. Everyone grabs a guy, but all that comes from it is coincidental minors for Tavares and Tkachuk and a Simon Benoit penalty for being the third man in.

The Maple Leafs penalty kill holds up much better than Florida's. Despite the Panthers setting up in the zone, they can't get around the Leafs. No goal for Florida.

Matthew Tkachuk comes close to tying the game after an Auston Matthews misplay in the defensive end, but Joseph Woll is doing his damndest to come up strong in his audition for round one starter.

John Tavares and Matthew Knies team up for a two on one, and it's an obvious pass play to Knies in a wide open zone, but Tavares hopes that's the idea Stolarz has and takes a hard wrist shot at the net, but Stolarz has his head in the game - and the way. Tavares shot goes off the mask, and it falls off the goalies head to get a whistle.

The Maple Leafs double up the score, with a surprising goal scorer in Noah Gregor. Over 30 games since his last time bulging the twine, but it's good enough for me.

2-0 Toronto.

Former Evan Rodrigues players double agent when he hands the Maple Leafs their second powerplay of the game by holding Nick Robertson too hard. If you love him, Evan, set him free.

The Leafs first powerplay unit peppers the net area with shots, passes easily among each other, but they can't perfect the shot and change to the second unit, who can't control the play as easily, and we go back to even strength.

Rodrigues comes out of the box, and after the whistle is blown offside, he shoves Jake McCabe from behind, and the two into a shoving match that draws in everyone on the ice once again.

The outcome is Uvis Balinskis for Florida, and Tyler Bertuzzi and Jake McCabe in the box for Toronto. No one seems to understand the decision. Not the fans, not the commentary, not Sheldon Keefe who calls the refs over for a talk.

Paul Maurice is pleased.

The Leafs PK is once again holding down the fort, clogging passing lanes and taking away opportunities. Once again, the Panthers fail at the powerplay.

The first period ends, with the Maple Leafs leading the Panthers 2-0 on the scoreboard, and 14-7 in shots.

During intermission, we'll check on the Bruins / Senators game Are the Bruins tanking this hoping for the Leafs in round one? With seven minutes to go in the second period, the Senators are out shooting the Bruins 15-9 and winning 2-0.


At the start of the second period, another former Maple Leaf comes into play, Carter Verhaeghe scores in 30 seconds to kick off the middle from in the Panthers favour.

2-1 Toronto.

After Auston Matthews misses his 70th once again, Tyler Bertuzzi tries to sneak through the crease behind Stolarz, trips over the goalie and gets two minutes for interference.

The Panthers power play still can't outplay the Leafs penalty kill, but they swarm the net and come close to scoring. Woll makes the stop and Joel Edmundson puts Matthew Tkachuk in a headlock to keep him at bay after the whistles.

Edmundson defends against Sam Bennett, but he had let go of the puck earlier so Edmundson gets two for interference. Nine seconds of five on three, then another regular powerplay for the Panthers.

Both Joe Woll and Jake McCabe dive into the crease to make a save off the face off, and it works. No goal.

The Leafs penalty killers start to tire after four minutes of ice time, and Panthers are getting more shots onto Woll, throwing more hits against the boards. The Leafs dump more, than play it out. It works. Still no powerplay goals for Florida.

The Panthers control the puck more in the second period, they take the lead in shots, they get more offensive zone time. They get more physical. The Panthers come into the Leafs zone, Carter Verheaghe easily tosses aside Mitch Marner, and Rielly was playing too deep so now there's just Timothy Liljegren defending, and a sneaky Sam Bennett scores the tying goal.

Seconds later the Panthers take the play from the face off and Sam Reinhart gets his 56th goal of the season to give Florida the lead.

3-2 Panthers midway through the game.

They keep on coming. There's no quit in this Panthers team, there's no slowing them down this period. Brandon Montour takes a hard shot from the blueline, it roars through the air and into the top corner of the net.

4-2 Panthers.

This isn't impossible to come back from, it's a good test for the team ahead of the playoffs. How will they respond? So far in the second, it's mostly trying to slow down the Panthers. The offense is not as strong as it was just fifteen minutes ago.

As the second gets closer to it's finish, Ilya Lyubushkin is called for interference, on a weak call, so back to the powerplay go the Panthers.

Joseph Woll is being tested hard this time around, but he's making the saves when called upon. The PK is losing its luster, giving up too much zone time to the Panthers. However, it doesn't hurt them as the Panthers are now 0/5 on the powerplay tonight.

With 30 seconds remaining, Woll goes down to make a save and everyone jumps into the crease to move the puck either direction. After the dogpile is cleared, Woll is the hero.

The second period ends with the Panthers up 4-2. Keefe storms off the bench, and I can't imagine it will be a pleasant chat in the dressing room, especially after the Panthers outshot the Leafs 32-4!

The Bruins? They're fighting back. As the Leafs head to intermission that game has 4:30 to go, and the Bruins cut the lead to 2-1, however that isn't enough. Ottawa scores on the empty net so clinch the victory.

Toronto's fate is completely in their hands.

So, who will it be? Florida? or Boston?

The third starts with more nonsense, as John Tavares is called for holding while doing some board work behind the Leafs net.

The Panthers get their SIXTH powerplay of the game. It helps to have the AGM's (Greg Campbell) dad work in the head office (Colin Campbell), and the refs being afraid of being embarrassed by Paul Maurice on TV again.

The penalty kill is working better than last time, not as many shots, not as many chances. Panthers go 0/6.

The Maple Leafs get their first call in a long, long, long, time after Sam Bennett is called for hooking John Tavares. The Maple Leafs need to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Leafs take some shots, Auston Matthews comes very close to 70, but the problem this time is the blueline is uncovered and every clearing attempt gets past the defenders. No goal for the Leafs.

The shots are not as fast and/or furious as they once were. Florida wants to win the division, they want something to brag about, and that cross state playoff round against Tampa wouldn't be too shabby either.

John Tavares and Niko Mikkola get tied up at the boards, but only Mikkola gets the penalty, which he is very confused about. Too bad. It's catch up time.

The powerplay is very rushed, very nervous. Pucks slip by, wasting valuable seconds. No goals once again. Five minutes remain. Leafs are down by two.

Woll gets pulled at three minutes. Extra attacker. They rush the Panthers net, in the chaos the Panthers net gets knocked off but now the question is: Did Matthew Tkachuk do this on purpose? Did he deny Matthews his 70th?

After a lengthy discussion, the refs let it go.

Sam Reinhart gets control of the puck coming out of the faceoff, and he fires the puck down from the blueline and into the empty net.

5-2 Panthers.

The crowd mocks Leafs fans from last season, chanting "We Want Boston", as Leafs fans had rooted for the Panthers to win over the Bruins last year in round one, thinking Florida would be an easier opponent.

Keefe leaves the net empty. Why not try and score three in 56 seconds?

Auston Matthews gets high-sticked with 44 seconds left. Another powerplay chance for the Leafs. One goal every 15 seconds?

No. The Panthers win this game 5-2, they win the Atlantic Division title. They bump the Boston Bruins off the top spot at the last possible moment.

They bump the Bruins down to the Leafs level. Once again, the Toronto Maple Leafs will play the Boston Bruins in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

But first, the Leafs will take Alligator Alley down across the state to the Gulf of Mexico, to play one final game of the regular season against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Leafs have just one mission in this mostly meaningless game:

Get Auston to 70.

Let's Go.

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