The Boston Bruins don’t lose often. And losing two in a row, that’s been almost unheard of for this team this season.
Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist, Linus Ullmark stopped 29 shots and the Bruins topped the Florida Panthers 4-2 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday night.
Boston took a 2-1 lead in the series – looking nothing like the team that gave up six goals on home ice on Wednesday. They thwarted Florida for two periods, with 19 of the Panthers’ 31 shots coming amid a desperate third-period rally try.
“We saw Boston Bruins hockey today,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said.
The Bruins – who had the best regular season in NHL history – flexed all sorts of muscle in Game 3. They took a 4-0 lead before a pair of late goals only made the scoreboard look better, chased Panthers starter Alex Lyon in the third, and reclaimed the home-ice edge that they’d lost two nights earlier.
Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak and Nick Foligno also had goals for the Bruins, and Dmitry Orlov had a pair of long outlet passes that became assists.
“It’s all about us ... but it doesn’t end with this one,” Ullmark said.
Lyon stopped 23 of 26 shots for Florida, the Pastrnak goal with 11:28 remaining chasing him and having Florida send in Sergei Bobrovsky. That might mean the Panthers have a big decision to make regarding a starter before Game 4 in Sunrise on Sunday afternoon – but Florida coach Paul Maurice said it was simply time to get Bobrovsky some work.
“He needs a little bit of action. That’s all that was,” Maurice said. “It was not a critique of Alex’s game.”
Gustav Forsling and Sam Reinhart had goals for Florida, which didn’t get anything past Ullmark until 5:19 remained. Boston improved to 50-3-0 this season when allowing no more than two goals and 15-2-1 after a loss.
The Bruins were again without captain Patrice Bergeron, out with an upper-body injury. He won’t play in Game 4 either, with the Bruins believing he will be ready to play when the series returns to Boston for Game 5 next week.
Florida is built to let shots fly. There have been three teams in NHL history to take more than 3,000 shots in a season – the 1970-71 Bruins are one of them, and the other two are the 2021-22 Panthers, and the 2022-23 Panthers.
That makes what Boston did even more impressive than it looked on the stat sheet.
The Bruins held Florida to four shots in the second period – matching the Panthers’ fourth-lowest total for any of their 254 periods this season to that point.
“For the most part, playoff hockey, you forget and move on, maybe learn from it a little bit,” Reinhart said. “Every day’s a new challenge. We’re going to come back Sunday ready to go.”
Hall opened the scoring 2:26 into the game by sending a shot from just a stride or two inside the blue line over Lyon’s glove for a 1-0 lead.
The 2-0 edge came at 6:00 of the second. Brad Marchand sent a wobbling puck toward the net from the right point, and Coyle – positioned in front of the net – chopped down at it as it sailed toward the goal. The puck bounced off the ice and past Lyon.
Pastrnak got the second of the long Orlov assists, getting behind the defence to beat Lyon for a 3-0 lead, and Foligno made it 4-0 by tipping a pass by Bobrovsky with 8:15 left.
Around the rink
Florida has not been shut out at home in 109 consecutive games, going back to Feb. 24, 2021. ... Ullmark was a game-time decision after Boston’s morning skate, but showed no ill effects of anything in Game 3 ... Florida briefly lost D Aaron Ekblad with 11:11 left in the second after he collided with Boston’s Charlie McAvoy. Ekblad immediately grabbed for the top of his helmet and went directly to the locker room after getting off the ice. He returned less than three minutes later, but didn’t finish the contest. “He’ll get checked out tomorrow,” Maurice said.