Tavares on Leafs comeback bid: 'We're just going to keep fighting'
The Toronto Maple Leafs kept their season alive Wednesday with a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers in Game 4.
The Maple Leafs now trail the best-of-seven series 3-1 and will return to Toronto for Game 5 on Friday.
“We're just going to keep fighting,” Leafs captain John Tavares said as his team looks to become just the fifth in NHL history to battle back from 3-0 down and advance.
The Leafs were held to two goals for the sixth straight game on Wednesday, but did receive tallies from William Nylander and Mitch Marner, who had previously been shutout in the second-round series.
"Just a complete effort," Mitch Marner said of the Game 4 win. "We wanted to just take it shift by shift for a full 60 [minutes], and I thought we did a great job."
“It’s not going to get easier,” Nylander added.
With the team starting rookie Joseph Woll in place of the injured Ilya Samsonov, head coach Sheldon Keefe praised the Leafs' defensive effort in holding the Panthers to 25 shots on Wednesday.
"I thought from an effort standpoint, I thought it was our best effort of the season," Keefe said. "You saw all the way through from start to finish, there was no real letup. Obviously, it's a very close game but our competitiveness defensively, and urgency defensively, was the best it's been all year. It was an unbelievable job by our guys here tonight."
The Maple Leafs continue to face an uphill battle in their comeback pursuit. While they became just the fourth team since 2018 to avoid a sweep when trailing 3-0, the three previous teams all lost in Game 5.
The Panthers saw their six-game winning streak, which dated back to erasing 3-1 deficit against the Boston Bruins in the first round, snapped Wednesday but head coach Paul Maurice insisted his team wasn't feeling the pressure of not closing the series out.
"We lost a game today. That happens in the playoffs," Maurice said. “We're good. We're OK. We get to play the next one. I think we're all good with that. It wasn't so fabulous a win that they're not going to let us play the next one.”