Linus Ullmark left the ice with a few minutes left to play, which ordinarily isn’t a great thing for hockey goaltenders.
In this case, it only made the Boston Bruins appreciate him more.
Ullmark stopped 41 shots before leaving the game with 3:11 remaining after drawing a misconduct penalty — he wanted to fight Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk as the highlight of a late-game scrum — and the Bruins beat the Panthers 6-2 on Sunday to move one game away from the second round of the playoffs.
“I love it,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said of his goalie. “He’s all in.”
Taylor Hall had two goals and two assists, Jake DeBrusk scored twice, and the Bruins took a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series — with a chance to advance coming in Boston on Wednesday.
Brad Marchand and Tyler Bertuzzi also had goals for the Bruins, who got a second consecutive win on Florida ice. Hall’s goals came in the final 3:36, the second one an empty-netter.
But the talk of the locker room was Ullmark, for good reason.
“Tkachuk’s kind of doing a lot of things to try and get under our skin but for the most part, we’re doing a great job of keeping it between the whistles, and I’m proud of our group for doing so,” Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “But at times, you’ve got to show a little passion and push back.”
Tkachuk and Sam Bennett had goals for Florida, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for the Panthers.
Hall put it away with 3:36 left, getting behind Florida’s defense and beating Bobrovsky easily for a 5-2 edge that sent Panthers fans to the exits — possibly for the last time this season.
“I liked the way we started. Certainly didn’t like the end result,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “But we’ll go into Boston feeling free.”
All Boston needs to do now is avoid a three-game losing streak in order to reach the second round for the fifth time in the past six seasons.
The Bruins dropped three in a row only once all season, on their way to having the best regular-season mark in NHL history — 65-12-5. Sunday’s win was Boston’s 68th of the season; only 10 teams, including playoffs, have ever won more in a single season.
Both of DeBrusk’s goals put Boston on top by two — the first a power-play score 1:52 into the second for a 2-0 lead, the other when he merely had to swipe a puck that popped out of Bobrovsky’s glove into the net for a 4-2 edge with 11:55 remaining.
Boston improved to 39-1-1 this season when leading after the first period, 50-1-2 when leading after two periods, and 52-1-1 in games where it led by two or more goals at any time.
“We don’t have to think about 3-1 or what’s going on,” Bobrovsky said. “We just have to take the approach of one shift at a time, and keep grinding.”
The Panthers had two notable lineup changes — Bobrovsky was in, Aaron Ekblad was out.
Alex Lyon’s run of 11 consecutive games as Florida’s starting goalie ended, with Bobrovsky getting the call there. Ekblad was listed as a game-time decision after leaving Game 3 early with an undisclosed injury; he wound up sitting out and Casey Fitzgerald played instead.
AROUND THE RINK
The Bruins went with their same lineup as Game 3, meaning Patrice Bergeron (expected to play Game 5) and David Krejci (not expected to play Game 5) remained out Sunday. … Ullmark stopped a shot from Florida’s Sam Bennett in the first period with the top of his helmet. … The Panthers had one other lineup change from Game 3 – Anthony Duclair was out, Zac Dalpe was in.
Boston is now four wins away from matching the record for most wins in a season, including playoffs. The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers, 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and last season’s Colorado Avalanche all won 72 games.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.