Any thoughts of a quick first-round cakewalk for the Bruins quickly dissipated on Wednesday night following a 6-3 trouncing by Florida. The Panthers scored four goals in the third period to pull away from Boston and even the series at one.
With Patrice Bergeron missing his second consecutive game, the Bruins looked just as choppy and disjointed as Monday night. Boston struggled to find a rhythm all night long, constantly missing passes and struggling to handle the puck, especially in their defensive end.
Florida’s aggressive forechecking gave the Bruins’ defense fits, forcing 15 turnovers, two of which directly led to goals. Head Coach Jim Montgomery described them as “catastrophic.”
The Panthers scored the first goal of the game early in the second period after Matthew Tkachuk picked off a pass from Brandon Carlo and gave a wide-open Sam Bennett enough time to poke his shot under Ullmark’s arm.
The Bruins would answer ten minutes later while shorthanded when Brad Marchand picked off an errant pass of his own and wired the puck under Alex Lyon’s arm and bringing TD Garden to life. Florida answered soon after as Eric Staal walked right into the slot and beat Ullmark to the top corner. The goal quickly silenced the crowd, which had been belting out the chorus to “Livin’ On A Prayer.”
The Bruins would level the score again before the end of the period, with Tyler Bertuzzi cashing in at the tail end of a power play off a pin-point feed from Pavel Zacha.
Florida quickly regained the lead in the third and never looked back.
Brandon Montour scored on a seeing-eye wrist shot from the blueline twenty seconds into the third to put Florida back in front. Another defensive turnover by Boston gave Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe a two-on-one chance to double the lead six minutes later.
Montour would cash in again from distance, and Eetu Luostarinen would tack on an empty netter to put the game to bed. Taylor Hall would net a consolation goal late, but the game was beyond doubt by then.
The nastiness really shot up as time wound down, with several hits, fights, and hot mic arguments.
Incredible work by everyone all around. pic.twitter.com/jfeDcnonPX
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) April 20, 2023
A few key takeaways from the game from Boston’s perspective: They badly miss Bergeron, and it shows.
Aside from the turnovers and lack of rhythm, Florida is getting almost every chance they want. Moneypuck.com shows that the bulk of Florida’s scoring chances came right in front of the goal. Whereas Boston’s chances are all over the ice. Alex Lyon made some big-time saves throughout the game, but the Bruins didn’t make life very hard for him.
Florida is also dominating physically; Boston is letting them dictate the pace and initiate hits too often, which has led to several bad turnovers. Perhaps some lineup shuffling is in order to find the right mix and retake control.
Game Three is Friday night in Sunrise, Florida.
Photo: Charles Krupa/AP