The Boston Bruins’ marquee names came to play in their 4-2 win over the league-leading Florida Panthers on Tuesday at TD Garden.
Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall each finished with a pair of points, while Erik Haula and Jake DeBrusk helped fill the opposite net.
Linus Ullmark stopped 19 of 21 shots to earn his 25th victory of the season.
“I don’t think we gave up much,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Certainly in the first period, they got some good looks. Couple of breakdowns, couple of nice plays they made. Maybe we could’ve managed the puck better, but at the end of the day, the whole picture, especially the third period, you’re protecting a one-goal lead and we gave up maybe one or two chances.
“They didn’t look like to me that they had their normal jump tonight,” Cassidy added. “We got to take our share of credit for getting in the way. Maybe it’s just one of those nights, but I certainly liked the way our team performed.”
A wild first-period kicked off with a Gustav Forsling goal eight minutes in. Matt Grzelcyk couldn’t connect on a breakout pass, and the Panthers defenseman wristed one in to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins answered later in the frame on Haula’s third goal over the past two games on a one-timer from the far post.
A mere six seconds later, Hall found a seam through the middle and doubled the B’s lead with a top-corner snipe shot. Pastrnak picked up the primary assist on both tallies.
More last-second goals haunted the Bruins in this one as Florida evened the score with less than a second remaining on a power-play goal from Sam Reinhart. Brandon Carlo took a slashing penalty with nine seconds left, setting up the Florida equalizer.
DeBrusk deposited the only goal of the second period with a rebound strike just less than five minutes into the frame. Brad Marchand threw the puck on net from the blueline and No. 74 was in the right place at the right time to put the B’s back ahead at 3-2.
The Bruins controlled the tempo in the third period, holding the visitors to three shots on net in the final 20 minutes. Boston’s sound defensive play ultimately paved the way for Marchand to snap an 11-game goal drought with his empty netter at 16:55.
Here’s what we learned following the victory over the high-flying Panthers:
Pastrnak’s return gets the second line back on the offensive track
Since Pastrnak returned to the lineup, Boston’s second line has been all around the net.
In two games, Pastrnak notched a goal and three assists, while Haula has picked up three goals and an assist to go along with Hall’s two goals.
On Tuesday, Haula opened the scoring for the B’s and continued his well-rounded play of late.
“Definitely can reflect and be happy with the progress this season,” Haula said. “Things have progressed and I’m sitting here today feeling good.”
Eleven points in 13 games during the month of April has catapulted Haula’s confidence after sitting as a healthy scratch earlier this season.
“Going back to when I sat out that one game,” Haula said, “I started picking out a couple things in my game that I wanted to focus on in the defensive side of the puck.
Hall has also seen a bit of a scoring resurgence, potting three goals in his past five contests.
“It’s nice to score goals,” Hall said. “I wasn’t the most confident shooter for a while there, but the last couple games I’ve scored some goalscorer goals. It’s good to get that feel; it really is a feel. Some people chalk that up to luck, but the best goalscorers in the league seem to score a lot. And if I can get that feel heading into the playoffs, it’s a good thing.”
Boston’s second line erased a 1-0 first-period deficit. But another concern popped up in the closing seconds of the opening 20.
A troubling trend just won’t go away
Reinhart’s goal with less than a second left in the first furthered a pattern of late goals surrendered by the Bruins. Opponents have now scored 21 times in the last minute of regulation through 80 games, which leads the entire NHL by three.
“That’s a lost faceoff, [Florida] makes a good play,” Cassidy said. “I don’t think it’s gone through anybody’s head. I think it’s one of those years where we have breakdowns at the wrong time. I’ve said this before; sometimes we get unintelligent at times, sometimes it happens to be during the last minute. This one I wouldn’t say that.”
In this instance, Carlo compounded the latest late period miscue after taking a slashing penalty that gave the Panthers an attacking zone faceoff, whereas other goals have just come from the flow of the game.
The Bruins didn’t let the late first-period goal creep into their heads, however, as they netted the game’s final two goals.
Boston’s win, combined with the Washington Capitals loss and the Hurricanes’ win over the New York Rangers, means the Bruins can finish no lower than the first wild-card spot. The B’s have an outside chance of taking the third spot in the Atlantic Division but would need the Tampa Bay Lightning to lose their final two games, ideally in regulation.
The Bruins will avoid the Panthers and won’t get a chance to see the Rangers in Round 1.
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