TORONTO – Paul Maurice would have screamed louder — and dropped more expletives — if he could find the words.
Simmering behind the bench as his Florida Panthers sleepwalked through the start of Wednesday’s second period, the team’s head coach went nuclear during a break in action.
A beet-red Maurice didn’t hold back as he unloaded on his players for their effort in a game they simply had to win.
That tirade eventually produced the desired result.
Brandon Montour scored at 1:41 of overtime and backup goaltender Alex Lyon made 38 saves as the Panthers picked up a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs that energized their flickering playoff hopes.
“It was not calculated. I was just honest,” Maurice said of his stinging mid-period indictment. “I was where I was at. If I could have yelled louder, if I had a (expletive) way to be more profane than I was, I would have. I’m not gifted enough. That was all I had. I was honest. That’s how I felt.”
“It was more of a cleanse for the coach,” he added. “It was cathartic.”
Sam Reinhart scored late in regulation to force OT and Anton Lundell had the other goal for Florida (37-31-7), which now sits a point back of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a tough, tough league,” said Montour, who added an assist that gave him the franchise record for points by a defenceman in a season with 63.
“We have all the belief in the world.”
Auston Matthews and Zach Aston-Reese replied for Toronto (44-20-10). Ilya Samsonov stopped 26 shots.
“Played a good game,” Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Didn’t score enough to win and then made some mistakes at the end.
“Cost us the extra point.”
Montour beat Samsonov off a 2-on-1 with Aleksander Barkov 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.
“Gave us every chance,” Barkov said of Lyon. “He’s the type of guy who brings the joy into the locker room.”
The Panthers entered on the heels of getting outscored 21-10 over four straight regulation losses — an ugly stretch following a 6-0-1 run that moved them above the playoff cutline.
“We all know what the standings look like … what do we got to lose?” Lyon said. “Why play scared? Why play nervous?
“This is what you play the game for — this time of the year.”
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 of the playoffs, hit the ice at Scotiabank Arena for the first time since March 17.
Matthews buried his 37th at 6:40 of the third period off a pass from Mitch Marner to snap a 1-1 tie.
The desperate Panthers got a man advantage with 2:20 left in regulation and pulled Lyon for an extra attacker before Reinhart tied it with 59 seconds remaining on a deflection for his 28th.
Lyon and Montour then stole the show in OT.
“I don’t get too worked up anymore,” said the 30-year-old Lyon, who got the start ahead of the under-the-weather Sergei Bobrovsky on the front end of a back-to-back. “Not to sound like I’ve been through it all, but just spent a lot of time in the (minors) and played a lot of games.
“You just try to find ways to block out the other things … all that matters is stopping the puck.”
Florida led 1-0 just one minute into Wednesday’s first when Lundell score his 10th.
Toronto tied it three minutes into the second when Aston-Reese, who would later miss on a penalty shot, tipped his eighth past Lyon.
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.
That stoppage in play as the linesmen examined replays provided Maurice the opportunity to go ballistic on his players.
“You don’t want to know,” Barkov said when asked about his coach’s message. “Definitely got us going.”
The veteran bench boss said his roster deserved the credit.
“That can be a players’ win,” Maurice said. “The coach had lost orbit about halfway through the second.
“The players, that’s theirs. They get to keep it.”
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.
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