For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins have lost two games in a row.
Boston earned its top-dog status throughout their 2022-23 season. They can attribute much of that success to their ability to close out games in the final 20 minutes. Coming off of an uncharacteristic collapse in the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning only two nights prior, the Bruins aimed to return to form against a “desperate” Florida Panthers squad.
But an uninspiring power-play performance and a series of odd deflections — benefitting both squads — became the difference makers in Boston’s 4-3 overtime loss.
Nearing the end of a rough and rowdy opening period, a heavy forecheck from A.J. Greer forced an ill-advised outlet pass by Brandon Montour. Craig Smith pounced on Montour’s feed and promptly curled, dragged, and snapped home a wrist shot below the blocker of Florida’s third-string netminder Alex Lyon to snap his 10-game goal drought and give the Bruins the 1-0 lead.
The Panthers struck back for their first of three equalizers during the second period after Montour tipped Aleksander Barkov’s wrist shot past Jeremy Swayman to extend his point streak to nine games.
Exactly nine minutes later, Charlie Coyle, with a heavyassist from Sam Bennett, regained the one-goal lead for Boston. The Florida center whacked Coyle’s saucer pass in mid-air over the glove of Lyon — intended for Charlie McAvoy — and inadvertently gave Boston its second lead of the night.
Bennett atoned for his scoring error after notching Florida’s second equalizer at 8:29 of the final period. Hampus Lindholm and Connor Clifton both backed away from Bennett, allowing him the time and space to rifle a shot past Swayman’s blocker.
Boston had seemingly struck the final blow as David Pastrnak, fresh off the bench, snapped a shot through Lyon to give Boston a 3-2 lead with only 48.6 seconds remaining in regulation.
Not to be outdone by Pastrnak’s late-game heroics, Barkov evened the score in dramatic fashion with the goalie pulled and a mere 1.4 seconds left on the clock, sending the game to overtime.
With momentum on their side, the Panthers only needed one possession to complete the comeback. Sam Reinhart quickly notched the game-winner just 17 seconds into the extra session on a one-timer that deflected off McAvoy’s stick and under the crossbar.
The Bruins hope to stop the bleeding in less than 24 hours, with the Carolina Hurricanes awaiting their arrival. Here’s what we learned following Boston’s first two-game losing streak of the season.
The power play has hit a rut.
The Bruins have not quite been themselves these past few games, and not just because of their subpar third-period play.
Despite their four power plays chances against Florida’s 26th-ranked penalty kill, including a double-minor coming from Bennett’s blood-drawing high stick on Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins struggled to generate much of anything. Boston’s third-ranked power play had also been unsuccessful through two opportunities against the Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday night.
Poor passing, flat feet, and a surprisingly dogged Florida penalty kill kept the Bruins from converting with a man up.
“I think our power play has gotten outworked the last two nights,” head coach Jim Montgomery said to NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “And I think that has led to very little zone time.”
Bruins played below their standards during back-to-back setbacks
No, the sky has not fallen now that Boston has lost in consecutive games for the first time in this wildly 38-6-7 run.
Given their historic pace, the Bruins know they have a massive target on their back.
“We know everyone is going to come gunning for us and ready to play whether they’re on a back-to-back or whatever the case is,” Charlie Coyle said while addressing the media postgame. “We’re going to see it every night, so that’s something to look forward to.”
It’s easy to acclimate to the team’s success and consider anything other than perfection a failure. The Bruins paid the price twice after playing below their high standards against the Panthers and Lightning.
With little time to rest, the best team in hockey is quickly shrugging off Saturday’s tough ending.
“Stuff happens,” Coyle said with a chuckle. “It’s how we face that adversity, whether it’s in-game, game-to-game, it’s only going to help us. We learn from it and kind of use it…and that’s what we have to do with this one tonight. And the beauty of it is we get to come back tomorrow and have another crack at it.”
McLaughlin replaced Koppanen as Frederic exits.
In the absence of Tomas Nosek due to a broken foot and undisclosed upper-body injury, the Bruins have leaned on Providence Bruins product Joona Koppanen to occupy the fourth-line center role. The Finn provided an important depth piece for Boston, even earning his first NHL point during the Bruins’ 4-0 victory over San Jose on Jan. 22.
But for the first time this season, Boston gave the nod to Marc McLaughlin. The Billerica native and former Boston College standout, who recorded three goals in eleven games with the big club last season, arrived from Providence prior to Boston’s five-game road trip.
While he didn’t appear on the scoresheet, McLaughlin’s energy and physicality stood out, recording a hit, two shots on goal, and withstanding an early and heavy hit from bruising defenseman Radko Gudas.
Montgomery hasn’t revealed whether Koppanen or McLaughlin will occupy the fourth-line center role for Sunday’s tilt in Carolina. Regardless, this kind of center depth is no small luxury, especially after Trent Frederic’s departure.
During a post-whistle collision with Eetu Lustoarinen, Frederic awkwardly lost balance and appeared to be in some discomfort. Frederic continued exchanging pleasantries before exiting the ice for good.
Despite leaving Saturday’s game, Montgomery provided a rather encouraging update on Frederic.
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