With Brandon Montour ruled out of Monday’s game between the Panthers and host Boston Bruins, Florida found itself playing down a player.
To make matters worse, Aaron Ekblad left the game in the second period and did not return.
The shorthanded Panthers could not find a way out of the Garden with a win as the Bruins took a lead in the second and held off a frantic, late push from the Panthers to pull out a 5-3 win.
Boston remains unbeaten through three games while the Panthers come home after a 2-1 roadtrip.
The biggest concern, obviously, is the health of two of Florida’s top defensemen.
While Montour’s injury is not thought to be serious, Ekblad was slow getting off the ice following Boston’s second goal at 12:35 of the second period.
Following the game, coach Paul Maurice confirmed it was a lower-body injury for Ekblad but went into no detail.
Maurice said Ekblad would be evaluated by the team’s medical staff on Tuesday in South Florida.
”It was not an easy night,” Maurice said. “It was not a smooth night by any means. it was a hard-fought game and there is no quit here. They kept pushing.”
The game got to a rough enough start as the DeBrusk opened things up with a goal a mere 21 seconds into the game.
Sergei Bobrovsky was solid after that, however, and the score remained that way until Matthew Tkachuk found Sam Bennett in front of the net as the Panthers tied it at 4:32 of the second.
Things got testy midway through the period when Tomas Nosek kneed Rudolfs Balcers and sent him sprawling; the Panthers and Bruins started scrapping with Nick Foligno and Tkachuk getting after it.
Tkachuk took a double-minor for roughing and there was no power play chance for Florida.
Not long later, DeBrusk took off with a loose puck with Ekblad trailing. DeBrusk left a no-look pass for a charging Patrice Bergeron who beat Bobrovsky as the Bruins regained the lead.
Boston was able to pad its lead at 7:01 of the third when David Pastrnak scored on his sixth shot on goal and eighth attempt of the night.
Trent Frederic made it a 4-1 game with 7:29 remaining.
Florida got back in it a mere 27 seconds later on Gus Forsling’s first goal of the season.
The Panthers then got a power play with 5:54 remaining and eventually pulled Bobrovsky for the six-man power play.
Florida made it a one-goal game when Colin White banged in a loose puck in front of the net with 1:35 left — but DeBrusk ended it with an empty net goal with 63 seconds remaining.
Despite the early goal, Bobrovsky was solid in his second start of the night and made a number of key saves to keep the game close until the third.
On the flip side, Linus Ullmark survived a number of Florida chances to get the win.
”I thought our guys competed until the end,” Bobrovsky said. “It was a tight game, a fun game and we’re just going to keep building. It’s a process, the season … but the character of this team has been proven over the years.”
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Jake DeBrusk, Boston (2 goals, primary assist)
2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston (goal, primary assist)
3. Gus Forsling, Florida (goal, primary assist)
PANTHERS ON DECK
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WKIS 99.9-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- All-time regular season series: Philadelphia leads 55-36-6, 7 ties