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Toronto Maple Leafs right wing William Nylander (88) scores a goal against Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series on May 10 in Sunrise, Fla.Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press

The Maple Leafs kept their slim playoff hopes alive on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena.

Toronto now trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven second-round series with Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Friday.

William Nylander and Mitch Marner each scored their first goals of the series and rookie goaltender Joseph Woll picked up the win in the first start of his career in the playoffs.

“It was an awesome game to be put into and to see how hard we played tonight,” Woll said. He had 24 saves. “We were challenged to leave it all out there and we were able to do that.”

Toronto averted the embarrassment of losing four straight. The last time it had been swept in the postseason was 1981 by the Islanders. In 1979 it lost all four to the Canadiens.

Only four teams have come back from a 3-0 disadvantage in Stanley Cup history, but the list begins with the Maple Leafs in 1942.

“From an effort standpoint I think this was our best game of the season all the way through,” Sheldon Keefe, the Toronto coach, said. “With the season on the line, the guys dug in.

“It was a great response, but it is just one response. We wanted to bring the series back to Toronto so we are thrilled.”

Woll started in goal in place of Ilya Samsonov, who suffered an upper-body injury in Game 3. Woll was 16-4-1 with the AHL Marlies this year and 6-1 in bit action with Toronto.

He entered Game 3 early in the second period after Samsonov was hurt and stopped 18 of 21 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss.

He played a strong and effective game on Wednesday, aided by the Maple Leafs’ best defensive effort of the postseason. They blocked 21 shots with Auston Matthews and Noel Acciari getting three each.

“Our team in front of him gave him every opportunity for success,” Keefe said. “When pucks did get through [Woll] looked very confident and in control.

The hardest Toronto Maple Leafs trivia quiz you’ll ever take

Earlier in the day, the Panthers were listed by a Las Vegas oddsmaker as a 1-to-9 favourite to win the series.

“We are not paying attention to the odds,” said Morgan Rielly, the Maple Leafs defenceman. “When you are in this position it is a bit of a surprise.

“It’s not a position you would choose to be in but we are here and we’re fighting. We are not going to go down easy.”

Toronto eliminated Tampa Bay in six games in the first round to win its first playoff series since 2014. It was outplayed in each of the first three games by Florida, which surprised Boston, the league’s best team, in the opening round.

The Panthers had won six straight entering the contest. The Maple Leafs had won just once in regulation time during the postseason.

Fans held signs that said “We Want Florida” to poke fun at the crowd at Maple Leafs Square that chanted exactly that after the first-round victory.

They got the Panthers all right and until Wednesday it had been ugly.

Chances were limited for both teams in the first period by tight forechecking from each side. The Panthers got a late power play when Justin Holl was called for cross-checking but failed to cash it in.

John Tavares and Nylander each took two shots, while Matthews and David Kampf had one each. Marner did not have a shot on goal but was engaged nonetheless with four hits.

Luck finally took a turn in Toronto’s favour early in the second period. A puck in the Panthers’ zone caromed off an official’s leg to Nylander in front of the net. Nylander squibbed it through Sergei Bobrosvky, his third goal of the playoffs and first since Game 2 of the first round.

That ended a string of 54 consecutive shots without a goal in the series for Matthews, Marner, Nylander and Tavares. It was the first time none of them had scored in three games since Tavares joined the team in 2018.

The Maple Leafs went up 2-0 in the third on a long wrist shot by Marner with 9:57 to go. Soon after that a tripping penalty on Alexander Kerfoot gave Florida a man advantage and Sam Reinhart jammed a puck past Woll off a rebound to make it 2-1 with 7:46 left.

Bobrovsky has been spectacular for the Panthers. He surrendered just two goals in each of his first three starts and had stopped 91 of the 97 shots he has faced for a .938 save percentage. He was great again – in one case a victim of bad luck – and stopped 23 of 25 attempts.

“I would have complete faith in Sergei even if he hadn’t had a good night,” Paul Maurice, the Panthers coach, said. “He has great confidence and great rebound ability.”

The game ended with a scrum behind the Maple Leafs net and a handful of players mixing it up. For Toronto, Marner, Jake McCabe, Rielly, Noel Acciari and David Kampf were all given roughing penalties. In turn, Sam Bennett, Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov, Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe, Brandon Montour were all also cited for roughing, with Bennett receiving a game misconduct.

Nylander said the club will need an even stronger effort in Toronto to keep the series alive. If they do, Game 6 would be in Sunrise on Sunday.

“It’s going to take even more than we did tonight,” Nylander said. “We are not going to get too high. There is a long way to go.”

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