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'Never seen that before': Maple Leafs down Panthers 2-1 after wild shootout finish

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Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was already in his office.

Toronto goaltender Joseph Woll had entered the locker room to begin peeling off his equipment.

Fourth-line winger Noah Gregor, meanwhile, was in the tunnel at Scotiabank Arena after leaving the ice with his teammates.

Everyone had to turn around.

Gregor scored the shootout clincher Tuesday after Florida appeared to win the game with an Evan Rodrigues effort on the previous attempt -- one that was eventually overturned by video review -- as the Leafs picked up a wild 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.

"Never seen that before," Gregor said. "Crazy."

Rodrigues looked to have claimed the extra point for the visitors in the shootout's fifth round, but was judged to have touched the puck twice on his deke to the forehand on Woll.

"I didn't really know he double tapped (the puck) until I got back in the locker room," said the Leafs netminder. "And someone told me I might be going back out."

With some of the Panthers still making their way onto the ice, Gregor scored in the sixth round before Nick Cousins hit the post to seal it for Toronto.

"You hope for the best," Keefe said of tapping Gregor on the shoulder. "It was great to see him come through."

Gregor also had the goal in regulation for Toronto (11-6-3). Woll made 37 saves through 65 minutes for the Leafs, who played with five defenceman most of the night after Mark Giordano suffered an upper-body injury.

"That's a first," Reilly said of the shootout scenes. "But we'll take it."

Kevin Stenlund replied for Florida (13-7-2), which picked up a fight-filled 5-0 victory in Ottawa on Monday. Anthony Stolarz stopped 31 shots.

"I don't really spend a whole lot of time worrying about the shootout," Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said of his team's performance on a back-to-back. "Happy with the game."

Gregor made the Leafs' roster out of training camp on a professional tryout contract, and has shown terrific bursts of speed when given the chance.

"There's a lot that's happened in the first quarter of the season," he said. "We're starting to figure things out. We're playing strong here as of late. We're hoping to keep it going."

The Leafs suited up on home ice for the first time since Nov. 11 after picking up two victories in Stockholm as part of the NHL Global Series. Toronto then embarked on a two-game road trip (0-1-1) through Chicago and Pittsburgh upon returning to North America.

Looking to spark a sputtering offence, Keefe split up star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner for the first time this season on Tuesday. Matthews played with William Nylander and Matthew Knies, while Marner skated alongside John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi.

Woll held the sluggish Leafs in it early despite the Panthers, who ended Toronto's playoffs in the same building last spring in the second round before eventually falling to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup final, opening the scoring at 15:29 of the first period when Stenlund scored his sixth goal of the season.

"Outstanding," Keefe said of Woll's 14-save performance in the opening 20 minutes. "Just so solid."

The Leafs then regrouped in the intermission.

"We all knew that we could play better," Nylander said. "We needed to dig deep … show some (expletive) character."

Nylander hit the post and the crossbar in quick succession in the second, including one with Stolarz down and out as Toronto started to push back.

Florida centre Sam Bennett -- a post-season villain from a Leafs perspective for taking out Knies in last spring's second-round series -- then dropped the gloves with Toronto counterpart Max Domi before the home side tied it up.

Gregor raced in on Stolarz and roofed his third at 12:54 after Panthers defenceman Dmitry Kulikov had the puck bounce over his stick at the offensive blue line.

"We have a lot a lot of big names in the locker room," Woll said. "But to go far and to win a Stanley Cup you need everyone.

"He really stepped up for us."

And so did Woll.

"Joe was awesome," Rielly said. "Big reason for the two points."

FALLING LEAFS

The opening period saw both Marner and Giordano depart. Marner took a shot up high, but was back for the start of the second sporting a full cage. Giordano (upper-body injury) didn't return. Keefe said post-game the 40-year-old will miss some time.

KLINGBERG CLARITY

Leafs general manager Brad Treliving spoke with reporters following Monday's practice and confirmed John Klingberg is dealing with a hip issue. The blueliner was placed on long-term injured reserve last week. Treliving said the organization expects to soon have some clarity on Klingberg's path forward.

UP NEXT

Toronto hosts Seattle on Thursday, while Florida visits Montreal.

This report was first published Nov. 28, 2023.

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