Though Jake DeBrusk had the eventual game-winning goal in the second period, Erik Haula and Taylor Hall stole the show within a six-second span back in the first period as the Boston Bruins beat the Florida Panthers, 4-2, Tuesday night at TD Garden.
Linus Ullmark (25-10-2, 2.51 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in 40 games played) made 19 saves on 21 shots against in the win for Boston.
Florida goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (39-7-3, 2.67 goals-against average, .912 save percentage in 54 games played), stopped 34 out of 37 shots faced in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 50-25-5 (105 points) on the season and remain in command of the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, as well as 4th in the Atlantic Division.
The Panthers fell to 57-17-6 (120 points) overall, but sit atop the Eastern Conference, as well as the Atlantic, having clinched the best record this side of the Mississippi River however many days ago now.
Florida is also still in command of the Presidents’ Trophy race with the Colorado Avalanche (56-18-6, 118 points) just two points behind. Both teams have two games remaining on their schedules.
The B’s, meanwhile reached the 50-win plateau for the first time since 2017-18 and finished their regular season series against the Panthers with a 2-1-0 record over three matchups in 2021-22.
Boston went 2-0-1 against Florida in 2019-20, and did not face the Panthers in 2020-21, due to the temporarily realigned divisions amidst the condensed 56-game schedule in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bruins were without Jakub Zboril (right ACL) and Jesper Frödén (lower body) on Tuesday, while David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm returned to action after serving as healthy scratches in Sunday night’s, 5-3, victory in Montréal.
Pastrnak was back in his regular role on the second line with Marc McLaughlin coming out of the lineup and Tomáš Nosek reverting back to his fourth line center spot.
Meanwhile, Lindholm suited up alongside Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk went back to the second pairing with Brandon Carlo with Mike Reilly joining McLaughlin, Josh Brown and Anton Blidh on the list of healthy scratches against Florida.
Prior to puck drop, the Bruins presented their 2021-22 team awards as McAvoy was named this year’s Eddie Shore Award winner, Pastrnak took home the Elizabeth Dufresne Award honors for 2021-22 and Nick Foligno was named the recipient of the John P. Bucyk Award.
Patrice Bergeron (Third Star), Brad Marchand (Second Star) and Pastrnak (First Star) were named the 98.5 The Sports Hub Three Star Award winners for the season.
Thursday night before the B’s host the Buffalo Sabres, Boston– together with NESN– will present the NESN 7th Player Award as voted on by the fans to this year’s winner.
After Tuesday night’s win, fans in attendance witnessed a modified version of the annual “Shirts Off Our Backs” ceremony with players skating to a team representative, taking off their jersey, signing it and having said representative bring it over to the lucky winner from the crowd.
Early in the opening frame, Haula cross checked Anthony Duclair and presented the Panthers with the first power play of the night at 5:41 of the first period.
Florida didn’t convert on the skater advantage, but they were able to capitalize in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Gustav Forsling (10) flung a shot with eyes towards the net and past Ullmark on the glove side to give the Panthers a, 1-0, lead at 8:00 of the first period.
Forsling’s goal was unassisted.
Late in the opening frame, Hall fed Pastrnak with a lead pass into the attacking zone before Pastrnak drove the rubber biscuit to the net, deked and sent a backhand pass through the slot to Haula as the center was crashing the high slot from the right side.
Haula (18) blasted a one-timer past Bobrovsky and tied the game, 1-1, at 16:18, while Pastrnak (35) and Hall (40) notched the assists.
Six seconds after the ensuing faceoff– which the Panthers won, mind you– Pastrnak intercepted a pass and sent Hall (19) into the offensive zone on a breakaway where No. 71 in black and gold promptly beat Bobrovsky on the glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Pastrnak (36) had the only assist on Hall’s goal at 16:18 of the first period and Haula and Hall combined for a pair of goals in a span of six seconds– marking the second-fastest two-goal span in franchise history, trailing Ray Getliffe and Leroy Goldsworthy’s pair of goals five seconds apart on Jan. 4, 1938, in a, 6-3, win against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Garden.
A couple minutes later, a scrum ensued after a stoppage, yielding minor infractions for roughing for Joe Thornton, Nosek, Derek Forbort and Patric Hornqvist.
There was no ensuing skater advantage for either team, however.
About a minute later, though, Carlo slashed Duclair and cut a rut to the penalty box at 19:50.
Florida’s power play didn’t take long before Sam Reinhart (32) sent a puck off the iron before collecting his own rebound and slidding it behind Ullmark while the Bruins goaltender was momentarily confused and searched behind his leg pads for the puck that was now already in the back of the twine.
Claude Giroux (44) and Duclair (26) tallied the assists on Reinhart’s power-play goal as the Panthers tied the game, 2-2, at 19:59 of the opening frame.
Heading into the first intermission, the score was tied, 2-2, despite Boston leading in shots on goal, 13-11.
Florida held the advantage in blocked shots (5-3), while the Bruins led in takeaways (3-2), giveaways (3-1) and faceoff win percentage (52-48).
Both teams managed 11 hits apiece, while only the Panthers had seen any time on the skater advantage– having gone 1-for-2 on the power play through one period.
Early in the middle frame, Bergeron worked a pass up along the boards to Marchand, who fired a quick shot on goal that generated a rebound for DeBrusk as he crashed the net.
DeBrusk (24) buried the loose puck and gave Boston a, 3-2, lead at 4:59 of the second period as a result.
Marchand (46) and Bergeron (38) were credited with the assists on the tally.
Moments later, Thornton tripped McAvoy and presented the Bruins with their first power play as a result at 11:49 of the second period.
Boston promptly failed to convert on the skater advantage and fell to 0-for-34 on their last 34 power play opportunities.
Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led the Panthers, 3-2, on the scoreboard and, 22-18, in shots on goal, including a, 9-7, advantage in the second period alone.
Boston also led in faceoff win% (59-42), while Florida took control in blocked shots (7-4), takeaways (7-5) and giveaways (7-4).
Both teams had 21 hits aside, while the Panthers were 1-for-2 and the Bruins were 0-for-1 on the power play heading into the final frame.
Early in the third period, the Panthers tweeted that Anton Lundell (upper body) and Radko Gudas (lower body) would not return to the night’s action due to injuries.
Forsling sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play at 6:46 of the third period and received an automatic delay of game infraction as a result.
Boston, however, failed to convert on the resulting power play and would do so once more when Sam Bennett hooked Lindholm and cut a rut to the box at 8:49.
Despite special teams continuing to fall by the wayside (the Bruins are 0-for-36 on their last 36 power plays), the B’s managed to limit Florida to just three shots on goal in the third period alone.
Panthers interim head coach, Andrew Brunette, pulled his goaltender with 3:24 remaining in the action to muster some semblance of an effort in the offensive zone with a 6-on-5 advantage.
Marchand (32), however, had other ideas and ended a 12-game goalless drought– tallying the 793rd point of his NHL career in the process and tying Wayne Cashman for the seventh-most points in Bruins franchise history as a result on an empty net goal at 16:55.
Bergeron (39) had the only assist and Boston took a, 4-2, lead with only minutes to spare in Tuesday night’s action.
Brunette used his timeout with 1:36 remaining and pulled Bobrovsky for an extra attacker again shortly thereafter, but the B’s kept the Panthers from cutting into the lead and the final horn sounded with a resounding, 4-2, victorious effort for the Bruins.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal, 38-21, including a, 16-3, advantage in the third period alone.
The B’s also led in blocked shots (12-5) and faceoff win% (55-45), while Florida left TD Garden leading in giveaways (9-5) and hits (30-27).
The Panthers went 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Bruins went 0-for-3 on the skater advantage Tuesday night.
Boston has now won five out of their last six games and is on a three-game winning streak as a result.
The B’s improved to 14-16-3 (8-8-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 16-6-2 (7-3-1 at home) when tied after the first period and 32-1-3 (15-1-1 at home) when leading after two periods this season.
Florida fell to 33-8-2 (14-5-2 on the road) when scoring first, 15-9-2 (7-5-2 on the road) when tied after one and 11-15-1 (4-9-1 on the road) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.
The Bruins host the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night in the final home game of the regular season before visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs Friday night on the road.
The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin on May 2nd with the First Round schedule yet to be announced.
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