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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers Head to Boston, ‘Used to the Hatred’

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Ekblad montour
Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad celebrate with teammates Anton Lundell and Carter Verhaeghe after Verhaeghe’s overtime goal beat the Boston Bruins in Game 7 on April 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

FORT LAUDERDALE — The Florida Panthers are as comfortable on the road as they are in the friendly confines of home.

Boston is no different.

The Panthers will, no doubt, be well aware they are not at home anymore when they step onto the Boston Garden ice tonight for Game 3 of their second-round series against the Bruins.

The best-of-7 playoff series is tied at 1.

Florida pulled off an early upset in the 2023 playoffs in Boston last year, upsetting the heavily favored Bruins in 7.

The Panthers, 42 points behind the Bruins in the regular-season standings, won three of four games in Boston in the first round, including the final three.

Have Boston fans forgotten?

Nope.

“I know they weren’t too happy with us going back to Game 5 last year, especially after Game 7,’’ said Matthew Tkachuk, Public Enemy No. 1 in Boston, even before the whole David Pastrnak dustup.

“We’re used to the hatred as an away team, especially our team now. There’s a little of a rivalry that’s being created here. We go and we just play. That’s what makes us good. We don’t care where we play, who we play. We just play and we have fun doing it.’’

In this second-round series, Boston came to Sunrise and pulled off a split to take home ice advantage back.

This is now a best-of-5 series with three games at the Garden.

“It’s a long series,’’ Boston coach Jim Montgomery said Wednesday night. “We got the one game we needed to get in Florida, and now we move back to Boston.’’

The Panthers would like to win one of the following two games in Boston — and maybe even pull the sweep and come home for Game 5 with a commanding 3-1 series lead.

That’s a long way away.

The focus, as it should be, is on tonight. And tonight only.

Florida would like to see their play from the final two periods Wednesday carry over into tonight as the Panthers beat Boston for the first time in six tries this season.

The Panthers also got their first power-play goal against the Bruins.

“That was a blueprint for how we want to play,’’ said Kyle Okposo, whose team scored six unanswered goals in the 6-1 win and held the Bruins to 15 shots on goal.

“It was nice to establish our game after the first one didn’t go the way we wanted it to. If we can hit the repeat button on that, we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to win.’’

The question remains: how much ugliness carries over from the third period into Friday night?

The Boston crowd will be jacked, what with their Bruins in the playoffs and another team from South Florida coming to town.

After knocking off the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals last year, the Miami Heat was recently booted out of the first round by Boston in 5.

The way Wednesday’s game ended should have the Bruin diehards in full throat.

Not only were there 146 penalty minutes handed out in the third period alone, but it was the first playoff game in nine years in which both teams were assessed over 70 penalty minutes.

The Bruins’ 87 penalty minutes were the most they had taken in a playoff game since 1988, five years before the Panthers joined the NHL.

“I guess we have to try and ride the momentum of winning the last game,’’ Tkachuk said. “But in the playoffs, it is almost like whatever happened the game prior, win or lose, crazy, boring, whatever it is, it is a clean, fresh slate that next game. It really does not matter.

“Now it’s the best-of-5, and they technically have home ice. So, it’s up to us to win tomorrow and get that home ice back.’’

For the most in-depth coverage of the Florida Panthers:

STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS
FLORIDA PANTHERS (ATL1) V. BOSTON BRUINS (ATL2)
BEST-OF-7 SERIES TIED 1-1
GAME 3 

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