Brandon Montour scored twice and the Florida Panthers had four third-period goals to beat the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Bruins 6-3 on Wednesday night and send Boston to its first loss in 10 games.
The Panthers — the NHL’s top regular-season team last season — tied the best-of-seven series and head home for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday. There will be a Game 5 back in Boston on Wednesday.
Montour scored 22 seconds into the third period to break a 2-2 tie, Carter Verhaeghe added an insurance goal, then Montour scored again for Florida and Eetu Luostarinen added an empty netter with 2:25 to play to make it 6-2.
Alex Lyon stopped 34 shots, and Sam Bennett and Eric Staal also scored for the Panthers, who seemed overmatched by the NHL-best Bruins in a 3-1 series-opening loss.
Brad Marchand scored a short-handed goal, and Tyler Bertuzzi and Taylor Hall also scored for the Bruins, who won their last eight – and 15 of their last 16 — regular-season games while setting NHL records with 65 wins and 135 points. Linus Ullmark made 24 saves.
The Bruins did the same in Monday’s opener vs. the Panthers, overcoming a slow start that saw them outshot handily to lock down one of the league’s best offenses. The B’s so badly smothered the Panthers that at one point, grungy winger Tyler Bertuzzi wrested away Nick Cousins’ stick and smashed it on the Bruins bench. Sometimes we speak figuratively of a defense dressing down an offense; this time it was literally true.
Two moments from each series stand out. On Tuesday, the Celtics were in the midst of a game-deciding third quarter run when Al Horford and Robert Williams swallowed up Hawks forward John Collins, with Horford getting the block over the top. The C’s went the other way and Jayson Tatum found Horford for the corner 3 that put Boston up 20. Pack your brooms for Atlanta.
Montgomery added that the Bruins must do a better job of adjusting to Florida’s forecheck which has significantly disrupted Boston’s ability to break the puck out of its own end.
“It’s five guys working together, it’s not just defensemen and it’s not just forwards not scoring goals,” said Montgomery, who noted that he’ll be considering lineup changes for Game 3. “We believe in being a five-man unit in every zone. For the first two periods we thought we did that, except for some of the puck decisions that we made.
“And in the third period, our game got away from us. For a team that’s been really good in the third period for a long time, it’s an opportunity for us to learn and grow from that.”
As is the battle they are now in with the series tied at a game apiece and heading south to Sunrise for Games 3 and 4 this weekend.
“We knew it was gonna be a hard series,” said Marchand. “Definitely not one we expected to walk through. They play well at home, so we have our work cut out for us. We have to make sure that we bring our best next game. It’s one day at a time in playoffs. You can’t look at tonight. And doesn’t matter if we lost 10-0 or we lost in overtime. A loss is a loss, a win is a win. We move on.
“We’ll forget about this one now and start regrouping and see where we can improve. But if we don’t bring our best game, it’s gonna be a tough trip, so we gotta make sure we’re ready for the next one.”
“You can’t get too far behind anybody. Certainly not a team like the Boston Bruins, with the season they’ve had this year,” said Florida coach Paul Maurice. “So you build a little belief in each game. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead 1:42 into the second period on a goal by forward Sam Bennett, who was playing his first game since March 20. The center finished his chance after a ferocious forecheck by his line. But Florida gave the lead away during a power play. Forward Anthony Duclair made an ill-advised pass in his own zone that was intercepted by Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who scored the short-handed goal at 12:13.
Florida retook the lead at 14:18 on a goal by Eric Staal, which interrupted the home crowd’s singalong of “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. But the Bruins’ prayers were answered moments later on a Bertuzzi goal, as a slashing penalty to Ryan Lomberg was expiring.
It started in January when the team lost winger Max Pacioretty for the rest of the season to a non-contact Achilles injury. The Hurricanes traded for Pacioretty in the offseason with the hope that landing a six-time 30-goal scorer would strengthen their championship aspirations.
Pacioretty required offseason Achilles surgery in August that kept him out for six months until he returned Jan. 5. Pacioretty had three goals in his first five games before tearing his Achilles in the last minute of a 5-2 win against the Minnesota Wild on Jan. 19.
On March 13, the team announced it would be without one of its leading goal scorers, winger Andrei Svechnikov, after he injured his right knee for an indefinite period. Two days later, the team announced the 22-year-old star would miss the rest of the season as he required reconstructive ACL surgery to repair his knee.
Even with those injuries to Pacioretty and Svechnikov, who scored 23 goals and 55 assists in 64 games, the Hurricanes still won the Metropolitan Division by a point over the New Jersey Devils.
Now they will seek to get out of the first round for the third time in the past four seasons without Teravainen. The two-way winger had 12 goals and 37 points in 68 regular-season games while logging more than 100 short-handed minutes for a Hurricanes penalty kill that entered the postseason ranked second in the NHL with an 84.4% success rate.
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