On more than one occasion, the Florida Panthers came within a whisker of seeing their season come to a close Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins.
The Panthers bent and almost broke, but ended up withstanding a strong push by the NHL’s top team as Florida pulled out a 4-3 overtime win against the Bruins in Game 5 of their opening-round playoff series.
Boston lost the game, yes, but threw everything it had up against the Panthers.
The Bruins dominated every metric one could think of from time of possession, high-danger chances, shot attempts, whatever.
Every stat — save for the final score — favored the Bruins.
That last one went Florida’s way as Matthew Tkachuk scored 6:05 into overtime to give the Panthers a huge win on enemy ice with their season on the line.
The best-of-7 series now heads back to Sunrise as the Panthers will play host to the Bruins on Friday night. Boston still holds a commanding 3-2 series lead.
“Super excited to live to fight another day,” Tkachuk said afterward. “We say it a lot, but Bob makes a hell of a save otherwise our season our over. Then we go out and score pretty early in overtime. Things happen fast in the playoffs. Now they have to come down to Florida for another one.”
As Tkachuk said in his postgame press conference, give Sergei Bobrovsky a lot of credit — and much love — for Florida coming home for a Game 6 on Friday night.
All those big plays the Bruins made, all that time they spent in the Florida zone from the second period on, it was Bobrovsky who was Florida’s last line of defense.
Bobrovsky, who went almost a month between starts as Alex Lyon took over, ended up with 44 saves.
None were bigger than a buzzer-beating stop of Brad Marchand on a breakaway which would have sent the Panthers home.
“I just stayed in the moment,’’ Bobrovsky said. “I knew there was not much time left on the clock so he was going to shoot. I tried to pick my position, be aggressive. I was lucky to get that stop.”
When the dust settled, Boston took 47 shots on goal and had a 91-48 advantage on shot attempts.
Those are the kind of numbers the Panthers put up on a number of teams — most memorably Columbus — earlier in the year.
The Blue Jackets won that game, somehow. Wednesday night was Florida’s chance to steal one.
And it could not have come at a better time.
“Just desperate, had to be desperate,” Tkachuk said. “It was important getting the first goal, but we were supposed to be swept, right? Everyone said so. I don’t think anyone gave us a chance after losing two straight games at home in a backs-against-the-wall type game. It seemed like the series was over before the game was over. The way we started says a lot about our team … we didn’t want our season to end.”
Despite all the good Boston did, it could not put the Panthers away.
In fact, Florida never trailed in this game. The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Anthony Duclair before Sam Bennett made it 2-1 in the second.
Florida led 3-2 in the third thanks to a Sam Reinhart goal before it was tied at 3 on another Taylor Hall goal.
The Panthers, again, spent way too much time in the penalty box as the Bruins were 2-for-4 when Florida somehow had six players on the ice with 3:35 left in a 3-3 game.
They were able to kill it out and, again, live to fight another shift.
Now, the Panthers live to fight another game.
“It’s nice to get the win,’’ said Carter Verhaeghe, who ended with primary assists on three of Florida’s four goals, including the game-winner. “Hopefully we can keep going.’’
Yes, their season continues.
The Panthers were always flying back to Fort Lauderdale. Now the Bruins are coming as well.
“We have been so close to elimination from January on, we’re putting good at taking a couple of punches like Sam Bennett did at the end of the third,’’ Paul Maurice said, offering commentary on a slash and punch to the head Charlie McAvoy inflicted on Bennett late in the game which was not called.
“Get off the mat. I liked our overtime, liked the way we approached it.”
See you in Sunrise.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 6 (Boston Leads 3-2)
- When: Friday, TBA
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TBA
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Regular Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last Season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: @Boston 3, Florida 1; Game 2: Florida 6, @Boston 3; Game 3: Boston 4, @Florida 2; Game 4: Boston 6, @Florida 2; Game 5: Florida 4, @Boston 3 (OT); Game 6: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT, TBA); Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday. (*) — If Necessary.