SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers have been heating up on the power play lately and it culminated in an eruption Wednesday night.
It came at the perfect time, too.
After starting the season with the league’s second-worst power play, Florida had been sailing along at a 32 percent clip since Nov. 5 — good for fourth-best in the league.
Still, there was another level the Panthers could hit.
While they led the league in shots by a large margin, a lot were off weak scoring chances from the perimeter.
Wednesday, however, things all came together as Florida put together three power-play goals and beat the league-leading Boston Bruins 5-2 at a fired-up FLA Live Arena.
Florida’s outburst on the power play came against what was the second-best penalty kill in the NHL.
”We scored all of our power play goals from the net-front and that is where all of the goals are going to come from,” Florida captain Sasha Barkov said.
”We need more bodies there and we needed to find a way to score there. We had a good practice yesterday where we talked a lot about that and we delivered.”
The Panthers got an opportunity to get to work 1:20 into the game when Charlie Coyle tripped up Gus Forsling and they cashed in quickly.
Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk created a hole in the Bruins’ box set-up with some give-and-go action that Reinhart finished off of a Tkachuk feed from the net-front just 29 seconds later.
Boston held the Panthers to the perimeter on their next crack at the power play via an extended 5-on-3 — a problem Florida faced many times early in the year.
Florida recovered and scored two power play goals late in the period off deflected point shots, capped off by a Tkachuk tip of a Barkov shot that seemed to put the dagger in the Bruins with 14 seconds to go.
“We did the offensive things we wanted to do on the power play,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
”We were not afraid to shoot pucks and we made sure we had the netfront. There is a lot of good video on Matthew Tkachuk and he does it on purpose. He has an incredible set of hands that tight to the goalie while being in the right position and having the confidence to put the puck there.”
The Panthers got themselves into penalty trouble multiple times throughout the game as well.
They first found themselves on an extended 5-on-3 late in the first after Anton Lundell took a double-minor for high sticking.
Boston took advantage after Charlie McAvoy fired a loose puck that came off of a funky bounce from a Jake DeBrusk pass past Spencer Knight with 2:46 to go in the frame.
Knight recovered and stopped all 11 shots he faced in the third before facing a similar 5-on-3 situation following another double-minor high-sticking call on a penalty killer — this time being Eetu Luostarinen.
The Bruins moved the puck around quickly off the ensuing draw and Knight could only watch as Pastrnak blasted his 13th goal of the year past him off of a blistering slap shot.
Florida’s penalty kill did not break, going 4-for-4 outside of the two extended 5-on-3 chances for an overall clip of 4-for-6.
”That was an important piece because we got scored on and didn’t get rattled,” Maurice said.
”We still had three minutes to go on the clock on both and the kill on the first 5-on-3 had a bad break on the first one and they have a really strong power play up there, so being able to shut the rest of their power play down was important.”
Knight embodied a lot that, stopping 37 of the 39 shots he faced overall.
”All the good, young goaltenders have short memories because they have confidence in their ability to get better,” Maurice said.
“They are not worried about their place in the game. They know they are going to be a great goalie and Spencer knows that, so he doesn’t let go, he builds.”
Aaron Ekblad wrapped the game up with his 100th-career goal — an empty-netter with 2:10 to go in regulation.
“Really happy that it comes in a win so that you can smile about it,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever scored an empty-net goal, so it’s funny for that to happen now.”
COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sasha Barkov, Florida (goal, two assists)
2. Spencer Knight, Florida (35 saves, win)
3. Aaron Ekblad, Florida (100th NHL goal, two assists)
PANTHERS ON DECK
ST. LOUIS BLUES AT FLORIDA PANTHERS
- When: Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Last season: Split 1-1
- All-time regular season series: St. Louis leads 24-12-1, 3 ties