FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Joseph Woll is in line to get the nod in another must-win moment.
The rookie goaltender is scheduled to start Game 5 of Toronto’s second-round playoff series with the Florida Panthers after putting up a 24-save performance in the Maple Leafs’ 2-1 victory Wednesday night that kept their season alive.
Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said Thursday before the team flew north that Ilya Samsonov remains unavailable with an upper-body injury. Matt Murray is slated to serve as the backup Friday with the Leafs once again looking to stay alive down 3-1 in their best-of-seven matchup.
“He hasn’t skated,” Keefe said of Samsonov. “We’ll see where he’s at (Friday), but as of right now it’s Joe Woll and Matt Murray that are available.”
Woll became the first Toronto rookie to win his inaugural post-season start since Felix Potvin in 1993. The 24-year-old is also the eighth rookie in NHL history to earn a victory when his first playoff start was in an elimination game.
“Confident, but calm in there at all times,” Leafs forward Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s so impressive. To come in for that pressure of (a) game and just do what he did … it’s an amazing thing.
“Big part of that win.”
Woll was 6-1-0 in seven games with the Leafs during the regular season — including six straight wins to finish the campaign — and went 16-4-1 with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
“Works extremely hard,” Leafs defenceman Timothy Liljegren said. “He’s looked good all year … stepped up big.”
Toronto got a reprieve with a gutsy, defensive effort in front of Woll, but put up just two goals for a sixth straight playoff game.
“(Wednesday) was good enough to win,” said O’Reilly, who provided the screen on Mitch Marner’s winner in the third period. “We’ve got to keep making it tough on (Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky). The more traffic we can get, getting pucks and bodies to the net, creating that havoc around there, it’s going to be better.”
Keefe credited Florida’s defending, especially in the last two games — a 3-2 Panthers’ OT triumph and the Leafs’ victory with their backs against the wall.
“We’ve got to make good on the chances we do have,” he said. “We need to stay with it offensively, but as we showed (Wednesday), we have to do so with a foundation defensively that just takes care of our team and gives us a chance to win games.
“If we can just continue to be one goal better, we’ll take that.”
PAYING THE PRICE
Leafs winger Noel Acciari had a game-high seven hits and blocked three shots in Game 4, including a painful one off the hand.
“Gives you absolutely everything that he has,” Keefe said. “That sort of thing is contagious (and) infectious.
“Sets a real high standard for the group. He just does it night in, night out.”
O’Reilly, who arrived in Toronto via trade with Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in February, commended the gritty effort.
“Phenomenal game,” he said. “Finished every check, so hard to play against, and is putting his body on the line.
“It’s not wrist shots he’s eating — it’s one-timers full on. He’s such an important piece for us.”
GUDAS CRUSHES KAMPF
Panthers defenceman Radko Gudas rocked David Kampf with a hit in the second period that left the Leafs winger dazed. Kampf left for the locker room following the hit that came at — or slightly after — the whistle, but returned for the third period.
“I don’t have audio when we watch the video back, so I don’t know exactly when the whistle blew,” Keefe said. “But that’s a hit on a guy that (Gudas) knows the play either has ended or is ending. To me, that’s a hit with no intention other than to hurt the player.
“A lot of violence to it, but happy Dave’s OK.”
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2023.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press