TORONTO — Brandon Montour scored at 1:41 of overtime and backup goaltender Alex Lyon made 38 saves as the Florida Panthers downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday to energize to their flickering playoff hopes.
Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell scored the other goals for Florida (37-31-7). Montour added an assist for a two-point night.
Auston Matthews and Zach Aston-Reese replied for Toronto (44-20-10). Ilya Samsonov stopped 26 shots.
Montour beat Samsonov of a 2-on-1 in the 3-on-3 extra period after William Nylander lost the puck in the offensive zone.
Lyon also robbed Matthews earlier in OT to keep his team in the fight.
The Panthers entered the game three points back of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference following four straight regulation losses where they were outscored 21-10 — an ugly stretch on the heels of a 6-0-1 run that had moved them above the playoff cutline.
The Leafs, who clinched a seventh consecutive post-season berth Monday when Florida lost 5-2 in Ottawa and are all but assured of playing Tampa Bay in the opening round, hit the ice at Scotiabank Arena for the first time since March 17 after a recent 3-2-0 road trip.
Matthews buried his 37th at 6:40 of the third period off a pass from Mitch Marner that beat Lyon through the pads to snap a 1-1 tie.
Matthews has six goals and five assists as part of a seven-game point streak. Marner, meanwhile, has points in 11 straight games.
The desperate Panthers got a power play with under eight minutes left in regulation, but Samsonov and Toronto’s penalty killers held firm.
The goaltender then made a terrific stop off Anthony Duclair on an odd-man rush.
The visitors got another man advantage with 2:20 left in regulation.
Florida pulled Lyon for an extra attacker before Reinhart tied it with 59 seconds left in regulation on a deflection for his 28th to force OT.
Florida led 1-0 just one minute into the first when Lundell benefited from a mistake by Leafs defenceman Jake McCabe to bury his 10th.
Toronto tied it three minutes into the second when Aston-Reese tipped a T.J. Brodie point shot for his eighth past Lyon, who got the start ahead of Sergei Bobrovsky on the front end of a back-to-back.
Calle Jarnkrok appeared to give the Leafs their first lead moments later on a 2-on-1, but the play was correctly challenged for offside on Matthews.
During the stoppage in play as the lineman examined replays, Panthers head coach Paul Maurice went ballistic on his players for their performance in a game his team badly needed.
Aston-Reese then fired wide on a penalty shot after the Leafs forward was slashed on a breakaway, and the teams stayed tied 1-1 through two periods.
Matthews and Marner joined Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull, Dave Keon and Turk Broda as the only Leafs to make the post-season in their first seven NHL campaigns.
O’REILLY GETTING CLOSER, ACCIARI ACHING
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said following Tuesday’s practice Ryan O’Reilly is “unlikely” to play this week.
Acquired from St. Louis along with fellow veteran centre Noel Acciari, O’Reilly has been out since March 4 with a broken finger.
The 32-year-old’s recovery timetable after surgery was four weeks, which would be April 4.
Acciari, meanwhile, sat out Wednesday with an undisclosed injury suffered Sunday in Nashville.
Maurice was asked before the game about the Hart Trophy race for NHL MVP — one Edmonton captain Connor McDavid and his 143 points have all but locked up.
“Poor Leon can’t get his name in the paper,” Maurice said of McDavid’s Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl, who sits second in league scoring with 116 points.
Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn and his family recently moved into a house following last month’s trade with Vancouver.
There’s a familiar face close by.
Former Toronto blue-liner Thomas Kaberle, who played three seasons alongside Schenn during his first stint with the Leafs, and his family are neighbours.
“It’s pretty cool,” Schenn said. “Great mentor for me …a true pro.”
Panthers: Visit Montreal on Thursday and Columbus on Saturday.
Leafs: Visit Ottawa on Saturday before hosting Detroit on Sunday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023.
Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press