After their sensational first-round series victory, the Boston Bruins knew they would be facing an uphill battle against Florida.
Four games into the series, they’ve faced tilted ice in more ways than one.

Rolling right into Sunrise with just one day of rest after dispatching Toronto, Boston smacked the Panthers with a 5-1 haymaker to open the series. Florida had been sitting idle for a week following their series win, and the Bruins took advantage of this by scoring five straight goals.

Florida responded in kind in Game Two, reeling off six straight goals and blasting the lid off the proverbial simmering pot. With the game well out of reach, both teams took out their pent-up aggression on one another. 136 of the 148 penalty minutes came in the last ten minutes of play, including twelve game misconducts. Both teams had plenty of axes to grind and took their opportunity to get some payback. Even David Pastrnak answered the bell and squared off with Matthew Tkachuk late in the third.

Game Two looked ugly on paper; the Bruins came home with plenty of optimism. Those feelings faded quickly at TD Garden.

Lost in the mayhem in Sunrise was that the Bruins were having the same execution problems as the Toronto series. They went well over fifteen minutes of game time without a shot on goal, and Friday night was more of the same.

Despite talking about responding and playing better at home, Boston looked just as clumsy, disjointed, and sluggish as they did against the Leafs. Florida’s aggressive forecheck, which caused nonstop fits last spring, was all over the Bruins once again. Boston mustered just three shots on goal in the first period and was outshot 24-8 through two.


As bad as the Bruins had been playing, the officiating didn’t do them any favors.


Brad Marchand left the game in the second intermission following a hit from Sam Bennett that turned out to be far more nefarious than initially thought. No penalty was called at the time, and Bennett would not receive any supplemental discipline.

Florida would end up with six power plays on the night, to Boston’s two, and scored on four of them. The Bruins’ penalties ranged from run-of-the-mill to dubious at best. Highlighted by a Goaltender Interference call where Jakub Lauko was forced into the net by a Florida defender spurred the fans to litter the ice in frustration.

Boston finished with just seventeen shots on goal, and in the third game in a row, they were outshot by double digits.

Pissed off and fired up, the Bruins finally started playing with fire and brimstone.

Charlie McAvoy set the tone right off the hop, and the team followed suit, taking Florida’s game to themselves. Despite once again being heavily outshot, Boston held a 2-0 lead deep into the second period. But as play went on, they began playing against even more tilted ice.

Nursing a 2-1 lead early in the third, Hampus Lindholm was called for interference and put Boston back on the PK. With just seconds remaining on the kill, Sam Bennett cross-checked Charlie Coyle into Jeremy Swayman and punched home the loose puck.

No call was made on the ice, despite a ref being right at the net. Jim Montgomery’s challenge was deemed insufficient and the goal stood. The Garden crowd was already frustrated with perceived friendly whistles in Florida’s favor; now they were justifiably enraged.


Another Florida goal and two more Boston penalties later, and the game was well in hand. 


The Bruins mustered just two shots on goal in the third period. At one point, the Garden fans began chanting, “Shoot the puck!” as Boston repeatedly passed the puck around on a power play.

Ultimately, the Bruins let up when they absolutely couldn’t, and Florida took advantage. Still, there’s a sentiment that Boston had a very winnable game stolen from them with dubious justifications.

Florida was the most penalized team in the regular season, with 1,116 Penalty Minutes. Boston was 15th with 780. Florida has twenty-one power plays in the series, and Boston has eleven. Something doesn’t add up.

That’s not to say the officiating is the only reason the Bruins are down 3-1. They’ve been playing against tilted ice all series with how badly they’ve been outplayed. There are glaring holes in the Bruins lineup with depth down the middle and lingering struggles with forechecking teams that have not been fixed.

Through four games, the Bruins are averaging a pathetic 20 shots on goal to Florida’s 36.5. Coyle and Zacha only have a single goal between them. Not a single Center has won 50% of their faceoffs. Charlie McAvoy is having the worst postseason of his career. And yet, they’re still alive.


Staring up at the mountain of tilted ice that may as well appear like Mount Everest, the Bruins only have one option: to forge ahead.
With the season on the line, Game Five will be Tuesday night at 7 pm on ESPN.

PHOTO: Nancy Lane/Boston Herald

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