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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Florida Panthers on the Brink After Game 4 Loss to Bruins

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Jake DeBrusk of the Bruins celebrates after scoring a goal against Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky during the second period of Game 4 on Sunday in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

SUNRISE — This was supposed to be a season of transition for the Florida Panthers what with their salary cap issues and changes on and off the ice.

The Panthers ended up making the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs with a game remaining after the tanking Blackhawks upset the Pittsburgh Penguins insuring a spot in the postseason for Florida.

After Sunday night, 10 days after the regular season ended, it looks like this run may just be coming to a close.

Let us go back to April 13, shall we?

The Panthers had already clinched a spot in the posteason before their final game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

With a regulation win — on home ice, no less — Florida would have ended up opening the postseason against the New Jersey Devils.

Florida, feeling the release of a playoff chase knowing it was already in, had a chance to move into the Metropolitan Division’s side of the playoff bracket.

Only the Panthers came out flat and could not come all the way back in what was a 6-4 loss.

That loss moved the Panthers into a first-round matchup with a team that made history in steamrolling the rest of the NHL.

The Panthers blew off the consequences of losing to the Hurricanes, a defeat which put them in direct fire of the Boston Bruins.

They talked a good game, brushed off talk they could have made their postseason lives much easier with a win in Game 82.

“This is the moment that we have been fighting for the whole year,” Radko Gudas told FHN after the loss to Carolina.

“It does not matter what happened in the first 82. This is a whole new season. Anything can happen.

“Hey man, we’re in the playoffs. Let’s F-ing go.”

Well, here we are.

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The Panthers were said to be, perhaps, the most dangerous opponent for the 2023 NHL Presidents’ Trophy champions — and that was before Boston were going to miss its captain in Patrice Bergeron.

Florida did not play a good opener in Boston but rolled to a 6-3 win in Game 2.

Yeah, Game On!

Since that win?

All Boston.

On Sunday night, the Panthers lost the opportunity to force at least one more home game as they lost 6-2 to the Bruins.

Boston can now move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a win on Wednesday night.

If the Panthers want to advance to the second-round of the playoffs, they will have to win the next three against a Bruins team which has just one three-game losing streak this season.

That came back in January — before the All-Star break.

The Panthers were one of those three teams which beat Boston, if that means anything.

Truth is, it does not.

Boston is good but not unbeatable. The Panthers may have missed their shot at this one.

“We don’t think about whoever says anything,” Sasha Barkov said. “We have a great thing going on in this locker room and everyone believes in each other. We come out every game and play as hard as we can for each other.”

A stronger showing against Carolina 10 days ago may have helped the Panthers immensely.

Oh well.

Now, the Panthers are on the verge of seeing their season end.

As nice an area as South Florida is, the Bruins do not want to come back for a Game 6 in Sunrise.

If the Panthers are going to keep their season going, they have to have to bring a lot more to the table than they have in the past couple of games.

Even then, Boston still probably wins.

The Panthers will talk about their resiliency and may even bring up their ‘Comeback Cats’ mantra.

But the Bruins are feeling good about things right now.

They are not taking the Panthers lightly — but see the end of this series within their grasp.

Florida has its back to the wall.

Was Sunday the last home game of the Panthers’ season?

Perhaps.

Actually, it probably is.

See you in September?

“We just can’t give up. We just need to play as hard as possible and hope for the best,’’ said Gudas, a pending free agent.

“They are a good team, have this unbelievable record for a reason. We just have to make sure we handle it right and make sure we play better … We know they’re a good team. This doesn’t change our mentality after four games.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 5 (Boston Leads 3-1)

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