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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Changed Up Lines Early in Game 2. It Worked

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Carter Verhaeghe is congratulated by Gus Forsling after he gave the Florida Panthers a two-goal lead in the third period of Game 2 on Wednesday night in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

It did not take Florida Panthers coach Paul Maurice very long to make some changes among his forward lines on Wednesday night.

With Sam Bennett back in the lineup, Maurice felt confident doing so might set a charge in his team.

It most certainly did.

In the opening period, Maurice swapped forwards on all three lines including switching Anthony Duclair and Sam Bennett from first-to-third and switching Carter Verhaeghe with Eetu Luostarinen from first-to-second.

The Verhaeghe-Bennett-Tkachuk line gave Florida a 1-0 lead just 1:42 into the second period with Verhaeghe making it 4-2 in the third off a pass from Tkachuk.

Being secure in having four strong forwards, Maurice explained on Thursday, gives him the flexibility to move the wingers around.

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He usually does not do so that early in a game, however.

A playoff series is a little different for a number of reasons.

“I was not looking at it as 10 minutes into the game,’’ he said, “but 70 minutes into the series.”

But, considering how much success Verhaeghe had with Bennett and Tkachuk earlier in the season, it was not a difficult decision to make.

“I think one of the advantages of being behind the bench for a year is you get to know the team, see some of their tells,’’ Maurice said. “Some of it is the matchup, how the other team is lining up their D.

“But Carter Verhaeghe is funny because he has played so well with both Bennett and Barkov it is not an ‘only’ chemistry. He had not generated much, but I liked his game and his compete. I did do it early.”

The strength of the Panthers in the opening two games of this best-of-7 series has been their play 5-on-5.

Florida comes into Friday night’s game scoreless on five power play chances — it even gave one up to Brad Marchand in the second period of Game 2 on a soft pass by Duclair — but things at least looked better on Wednesday.

On 5-on-5, Florida has found its most success as all eight of its goals have come at even strength — Brandon Montour got the first of his two on Wednesday 4-on-4).

According to NaturalStatTrick.com, the Panthers hold the 5-on-5 advantage in shots (50-48), scoring chances (51-46) and high-danger chances (23-14).

But when special teams are factored in, Boston takes the advantage in shots (66-62) and scoring chances (63-62) while the Panthers still hold the high-danger advantage (24-22).

Florida is 0-for-5 on the power play while the Bruins are 2-for-6.

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Series tied 1-1)

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