Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was already in his office.
Toronto goaltender Joseph Wall entered the locker room and began taking off his gear.
Meanwhile, fourth-row winger Noah Gregor was in the tunnel at Scotiabank Arena after coming off the ice with his teammates.
Everyone had to turn around.
The Leafs cruised to a 2-1 blowout win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, and it looked like Florida had won, even though Evan Rodriguez’s shot on Florida’s last attempt was ultimately overturned by video review. He then made the deciding shot in the penalty shootout on Tuesday.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Gregor said. “crazy.”
Rodriguez appeared to have scored another point for the visitors in the fifth round of the penalty shootout, but he was adjudged to have touched the puck twice on a dig against Woll’s forehand.
“I didn’t really know he double-tapped (the puck) until I got back to the locker room,” the Leafs netminder said. “And someone said I might go back.”
With some of the Panthers still heading to the ice, Gregor scored in the sixth before Nick Cousins hit the post and Toronto scored the winning goal.
“I hope for the best,” Keefe said, patting Gregor on the shoulder. “It was great to see him overcome.”
Gregor also scored in regulation for Toronto (11-6-3). Wal made 37 saves in 65 minutes for the Leafs, who played most of the night with five defensemen because Mark Giordano suffered an upper-body injury.
“That’s a first for me,” Riley said of the gunfight scene. “But we accept it.”
Kevin Stenlund (13-7-2) represented Florida in a hard-fought 5-0 victory in Ottawa on Monday. Anthony Stolarz stopped 31 shots.
“We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about penalty shootouts,” Panthers head coach Paul Maurice said of his team’s performance in back-to-back games. “I’m happy with the game.”
Gregor was on the Leafs’ roster from training camp on a professional tryout contract and showed tremendous speed when given the chance.
“A lot happened in the first quarter of the season,” he said. “We’re starting to understand the situation. We’ve been playing strong here so far and we want to continue that.”
The Leafs played on their home ice for the first time since Nov. 11 after picking up two wins in Stockholm as part of the NHL Global Series. Toronto then returned to North America and embarked on a two-game road trip (0-1-1) visiting Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Looking to spark a phenomenal offense, Coach Keefe split star forwards Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on Tuesday for the first time this season. Matthews played with William Nylander and Matthew Knies, while Marner skated alongside John Tavares and Tyler Bertuzzi.
Despite the Panthers finishing in the second round of the playoffs in Toronto in the same building last spring and ultimately losing to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final, Wohl led the struggling Leafs to an early start. They held back and took the lead at 15:29 of the first inning. This was the period when Stenlund scored his sixth goal of the season.
Keefe called Woll’s performance, which saw him make 14 saves in the first 20 minutes, “awesome.” “It’s very solid.”
The Leafs then regrouped during the break.
“We all knew we could play better,” Nylander said. “We had to dig deep to show some (expletive) character.”
In the second, Nylander hit the post and crossbar in quick succession, including one that sent Stratz down and out as Toronto began a comeback.
Florida center Sam Bennett, a postseason villain for the Leafs who beat Knies in the second round of last spring’s series, hung up his gloves with his Toronto counterpart Max Domi before the home team tied the game.
After Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov bounced the puck off his stick at the offensive blue line, Gregor raced past Stolarz to score his third goal at 12:54.
“There’s a lot of big names in the locker room,” Wohl said. “But it takes everyone to go far and win a Stanley Cup.
“He really worked hard for us.”
And so was Wal.
“Joe was great,” Riley said. Two big reasons.
Marner and Giordano left after the opening game. Marner shot from high, but returned to fill the cage at the start of the second set. Giordano (upper body injury) did not return. Keefe said after the game that the 40-year-old will be out for a while.
Leafs general manager Brad Treliving spoke to reporters after Monday’s practice and confirmed that John Klingberg is dealing with a hip issue. The blueliner was placed on long-term injured reserve last week. Treliving said the group expects to have some clarity on Klingberg’s path forward soon.
Toronto hosts Seattle on Thursday, and Florida visits Montreal.
This report was first published on November 28, 2023.