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Panthers pounce on Bruins, 5-0

Aleksander Barkov had three assists and Mike Hoffman had two goals in the Florida Panthers sunset cruise over the Boston Bruins in Sunrise, Florida on Tuesday night. The Panthers won, 5-0, thanks to Roberto Luongo‘s 33 save shutout– good enough for his 77th career shutout in 1,011 NHL games played.

Luongo (5-3-0, 2.71 goals against average, .914 save percentage in ten games played), stopped 33 shots against for a 1.000 SV% in the win, while Bruins goaltender, Jaroslav Halak (8-4-2, 2.55 GAA, .932 SV% in 16 GP) made 39 saves on 44 shots against (.886 SV%) in the loss.

Boston fell to 14-9-4 (32 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic Division standings, while the Panthers jumped up to 7th place with a 11-10-5 record and 27 points on the season. Florida has a game in-hand on the Ottawa Senators and trails the Detroit Red Wings for 6th place by one point.

The B’s are one point ahead of the Montreal Canadiens in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and may soon be in danger of falling further in the standings with Montreal having the chance to surpass Boston on Thursday night with a Bruins loss in regulation in Tampa and a Canadiens win any fashion in Ottawa.

Torey Krug was in the lineup for Boston, despite taking a maintenance day on Monday, though his minus-three rating in Tuesday night’s action may say otherwise.

Bruce Cassidy provided an update on Charlie McAvoy, indicating the young defender will be back in the lineup soon, but not expected to play on this two-game road trip in the Sunshine State. McAvoy returned to full-contact practice this week.

Cassidy made no lineup changes, despite the poor efforts in three out of the last four games now.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Steven Kampfer were the healthy scratches for the Bruins on Tuesday, while Zdeno Chara (lower body, left MCL), Patrice Bergeron (upper body), Urho Vaakanainen (concussion), McAvoy (concussion) and Kevan Miller (throat) remain injured.

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Joakim Nordstrom hooked Dryden Hunt late in the first period at 15:34 and gave the Panthers their first power play of the night, but the Bruins were able to kill off Nordstrom’s minor and save themselves from one of the many chances Florida’s deadly power play would have on the night.

Mark Pysyk interfered with David Krejci at 17:41 of the first period and put Boston on the power play for the first time in the game, but the Bruins were unable to convert on any of their skater advantages on the night. Boston failed to record a shot on goal on the power play while Pysyk was in the box.

After one period, the score was still tied, 0-0, with Florida outshooting Boston, 13-7. The Panthers also led in giveaways, 8-6, after 20 minutes of play, while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (1-0) and face-off win percentage (52-48). Hits were even, 10-10, and both teams were 0/1 on the power play.

With both teams coming out of the dressing room after playing on sloppy ice and lacking effort at establishing some sort of pace, the Bruins continued to struggle to establish a zone time presence and got outrun numerous times in the second period as the Panthers came back ready to play.

Seriously.

First Colton Sceviour banked a shot off of the back of Halak’s leg, leading to a loose puck in the crease for Mike Hoffman (13) to just tap it in and give the Panthers the 1-0 lead. Scevious (4) and Jonathan Huberdeau (23) had the assists on Hoffman’s goal at 4:21 of the second period.

Jared McCann took a trip to the penalty box shortly after his teammate gave Florida the lead. McCann’s infraction was for hooking Bruins blue liner, John Moore, at 5:30.

Boston did not convert on the ensuing power play.

Almost midway in the second period, Michael Matheson (2) went 200-feet down the frozen river from one end of the ice to the other and scored an unassisted goal past Halak’s blocker side at 7:13 of the middle frame. Florida led, 2-0.

The Bruins were 0-7 when trailing by two goals entering Tuesday and they left BB&T Center 0-8 at the final horn.

Michael Haley caught Halak with a high-stick at 14:04, but the B’s power play was short-lived– 16 seconds, in fact– as David Pastrnak was penalized for holding at 14:20.

While in the midst of the 4-on-4 action, Huberdeau (7) fired one of his accurate wrist shots into the back of the twine at 15:14 of the second period. Keith Yandle (20) and Aleksander Barkov (14) were tabbed with the assists and the Panthers led, 3-0.

Hunt was charged with interference at 17:51, but Pastrnak received a matching minor penalty for embellishment, yielding no skater advantage for the Bruins.

Jake DeBrusk cut a rut to the sin bin at 19:00 of the second period for slashing Sceviour and the Panthers went on a rare 4-on-3 power play.

With seconds remaining on the clock before the second intermission, Hoffman (14) emulated Matheson’s goal, but with the help of Barkov (15) and Yandle (21) to give Florida a four-goal lead at 19:56.

As a result of Hoffman’s second goal of the game, the Panthers have now scored at least one power play goal in 16 out of the last 17 games.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Panthers led the Bruins, 4-0, on the scoreboard and, 33-23, in shots on goal. Florida also dominated in blocked shots (8-4) and takeaways (6-4), while Boston led in giveaways (15-10) and face-off win% (60-40). Hits were even, 18-18.

Florida was 1/3 on the power play and the B’s were 0/3 after two periods.

Nick Bjugstad was called for holding Sean Kuraly at 5:20 of the third period and the Bruins went to the power play for the fourth and final time of the night. They did not score on the ensuing advantage.

Moore went to the penalty box for hooking former Bruin, Frank Vatrano, at 9:10 of the third period and Chris Wagner shortly followed to the sin bin at 10:49 for tripping Bjugstad.

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Connor Clifton launched himself into a high hit on Bjugstad with about eight minutes remaining in regulation. Bjugstad took his time getting up and had to go through concussion protocol, but Clifton was not penalized on the play.

The rookie Bruins defender filling in while blue line regulars like Chara, McAvoy and Miller are out of the lineup received an earful for the remainder of the game from unhappy Panthers players, but wasn’t challenged to fight.

Instead, while on the power play as a result of Brandon Carlo cross-checking Vatrano at 13:02 of the third period, the Panthers collected another power play goal thanks to the relentless effort of Evgenii Dadonov (13) collecting the garbage in the low slot.

Barkov (16) had the only assist on Dadonov’s goal at 14:26 and the Panthers sealed their Tuesday night victory with a 5-0 lead.

At the final horn, Florida finished the night outshooting Boston, 44-33, and leading in blocked shots (16-8). The Bruins led in giveaways (19-15), hits (26-22) and face-off win% (56-44)– two of the three don’t equal scoring prowess.

Giving the puck away is problematic and usually teams that lead in hits lacked puck control to begin with, which was evident in the lack of sustained attacking zone time from Cassidy’s crew.

Florida finished the night 2/6 on the power play and Boston went 0/4.

The Bruins head to Amalie Arena for a Thursday night matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning before returning home Saturday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Boston has a quick turnaround back to the road on Sunday with a game in Ottawa against the Senators, before coming back home for next Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes.

In fact, including Thursday night’s game in Tampa, Boston alternates between road and home games for the next seven games until their short two-game home-stand from December 20-22.

The Bruins face five opponents in the next seven games from the Atlantic Division in addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins (Eastern Conference rival) and Coyotes (inter-conference action).

Roberto Luongo, Bjugstad, and Smith Overpower New York to Even Up the Series.

The Florida Panthers defeated the New York Islanders by the score of 2-1 on Friday night in front of a rocking 18,373 at the BB&T Center. The Panthers were led by their All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo who made 41 saves in their winning effort.

Both teams started off the game by sending their 4th line to the opening faceoff to try to gain momentum. This worked in favor of both sides being that just 42 seconds into the game there already was a scrum. The scrum involved the two team’s enforcers Shawn Thornton and Matt Martin but didn’t amount to anything. Just three minutes later on the Panthers sixth shot, Rielly Smith (his 3rd goal in just two games) scored the game’s first goal off a juicy rebound from Thomas Greiss, assisted by Nick Bjugstad and Johnathan Huberdeau.

Rocco Grimaldi took the game’s first penalty just two minutes later after he took down Islanders center, Alan Quine. This would send the Islanders to the power power where they looked to even up to score. They were able to sustain a good amount of pressure, but with just one weak shot from the point, it never amounted to anything great. Then 12 minutes later Panthers left winger Garret Wilson tripped Islanders left winger Shane Prince resulting in their second power play of the period. Unfortunately, this PP was worse than the first one resulting in no shots. So, the first period ended 1-0 in favor of the Panthers.

The second period started just like the first, with both coaches sending out their 4th line to set the tone, but this time nothing happened. The first prime scoring chance and momentum went to the Panthers at 17:04 of the second period from veteran defenseman Dmitry Kulikov after Greiss shut down his first shot from the slot with a great toe/blocker save. Then just 3 minutes and 21 seconds later Dmitry Kulikov found Reilly Smith behind the net who then found a cutting Nick Bjugstad (who slipped poor coverage from Islanders right-winger Josh Bailey) with a spinning backhand pass and Bjugstad roofed his first of the playoffs to open the Panthers scoring tab in the second period.

With 1:27 remaining in the second period we had our games first major altercation. Of course, you might have even guessed it, it involved both teams 4th line again! The Islanders enforcers went at it trying to gain energy for their team who were down 2-0 at the time. It seemed that everyone on the ice had a man tied up and were going back and forth. Before it all started, the pesky Casey Cizikas gave Panthers D-man Aaron Ekblad a shot below the belt and his teammates didn’t like that and a brawl commenced. After everything settled down, a total of 6 penalties were handed out, with both teams sending 3 players to the box. Believe it or not, each player on the 4th line for both teams got two minutes for roughing with Cizikas getting an extra penalty for the low blow. So, the Panthers went on their first power play, but it resulting in nothing special.

The start of the third period was a slow one, with no team truly gaining momentum. One of the first actions of the period was at the 15:47 mark of the third period when Cal Clutterbuck made two beautiful toe drags to gain the zone and gave Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic no choice but to drag Clutterbuck down and go to the box for holding. The Islanders would then get their third PP of the game. They grabbed three high-quality shots during the 2-minute span, but Roberto Luongo was up to the task and kept the shots out of his net.

Then with 3:33 seconds remaining in the game, the Islanders were able to ultimately get one past the stellar Luongo with their 40th shot of the game. With their superstar, John Tavares corralling Nick Leddy’s point shot off the boards and slamming the puck past Luongo’s right pad for his second of the playoffs. Also, Kyle Okposo grabbed the secondary apple (assist) on the goal. They then pulled goaltender Thomas Greiss for the extra attacker pushing for that tying goal. They only managed two shots, but “Lu” wasn’t having any of it and shut the door. The Panthers would then ice the game on an empty net goal scored by Dmitry Kulikov assisted by Aleksander Barkov at 19:51 of the third period.

New York outshot Florida 42-31 and outhit the Panthers 32-22. While Florida won in the faceoff category 36-27, lead in giveaways 13-9, and blocked shots 12-8. Florida was 0/1 on the power play while New York was 0/3.

First Start Roberto Luongo would earn his first playoff win since 2011 when he was with the Vancouver Canucks after saving 41 out of 42 shots (.976%). While Thomas Greiss, who played a great game, gets stuck with the loss after saving 28 out of 30 shots (.933%).

The series is now tied at one game apiece (1-1).  Both teams will now grab a flight up north to Brooklyn, New York for Game 3 on Sunday with puck drop scheduled for 8 PM. You can catch this matchup on NBCSN, SN, MSG+, or FS-F.