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Keefe calls season a 'missed opportunity' for Leafs

Auston Matthews Sheldon Keefe Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Sheldon Keefe - The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs' season came to an end with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers in Game 5 and head coach Sheldon Keefe didn't hide his disappointment.

"This is a missed opportunity for our group," the Leafs head coach said after Friday's game.

"I believe we had a team good enough to win the Stanley Cup and we didn't do that."

Keefe added that he believed the Leafs dug themselves too big a hole by dropping first three games and credited the Panthers for how they played throughout the series. 

"It's hard to win. I think we know that more than anybody. This is a tough one," said Auston Matthews, who finished the series with two assists over five games.

While the Leafs did defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games in the opening round for their first playoff series victory since 2004, Friday's loss brings about a pivotal off-season for the Maple Leafs. General manager Kyle Dubas' contract is set to end on June 30 and there have also been rumblings about Keefe's future as head coach.

"I love these guys. I don’t want anything to change," defenceman Morgan Rielly said.

"We've all got years left on our contracts," Mitch Marner said, adding the group continues to believe in itself despite the loss.

Florida heads to the Eastern Conference Final with Friday's victory, where they will take on the Carolina Hurricanes. Nick Cousins won the game for the Panthers in overtime, who also got goals from Aaron Ekblad and Carter Verhaeghe. 

Rielly appeared to score for the Maple Leafs late in the second period but a replay review confirmed the call on the ice of no goal. 

Rielly, who got the Leafs on the board with his fourth goal of the playoffs earlier in the period, cut to the net and seemed to tuck one behind the right pad of Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. The Leafs celebrated but officials signalled no goal, keeping the score at 2-1. A short delay ensued after the announcement of the call standing as fans at Scotiabank Arena threw items on the ice.

William Nylander tied the game late in the third period before Cousins' marker in the extra frame.