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Florida Panthers Squander Multiple Leads in Loss to Bruins



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Brad Marchand and Niko Mikkola fight during the second period during Tuesday night’s game in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Rhona Wise)

SUNRISE — With first place in the Atlantic Division and a shot at clinching a playoff spot on the line, the Florida Panthers let the lead slip away three times in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins.

It ended up costing them.

Mere minutes after Carter Verhaeghe gave them a 3-2 lead, Evan Rodrigues took a delay of game penalty with 5:43 to go in regulation.

That was all Boston needed to swing momentum in its direction.

Trent Frederic tied the score with a one-timer blast on the ensuing power play, and Pavel Zacha rode off the momentum and sunk the dagger into the Panthers with 2:21 to go.

”We’re not sitting back, we’re certainly not casual, we’re not afraid of the puck, and we’re not afraid to make plays,” coach Paul Maurice said. “That’s what you look for.

“You’re still trying to play the game and not trying to hold the lead. He probably shouldn’t throw it in the stands, but I mean, those things aren’t systemic.”

Systematically, the Panthers played their game and controlled play for large stretches of the night.

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The Bruins kept capitalizing on the bounces they got at opportune moments to regain the momentum.

That’s what good teams do, after all.

“We definitely learned from this game,” said Panthers captain Sasha Barkov, who returned to the lineup from a three-game absence on Tuesday.

“I think most of the game we played the right way. We didn’t cheat for anything; we just tried to make the right plays all over the ice. Obviously, they are a good team, so they are going to have their momentum and we had our momentum. We’re going to learn from this and move on.”

Amid a 1-5-1 slide featuring games with players in and out of the lineup, a matchup with their biggest competitor in the Eastern Conference was a big measuring stick for a mostly healthy Florida squad.

It was one they hadn’t had in quite a while.

Sure, they were still down Aaron Ekblad, who is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained March 9, but cleaning up little mistakes like Rodrigues’ late-game penalty remains key when the playoffs start on April 20.

In those close, chippy games, all of the little things matter.

“This was probably the most physical and the most intense game we’ve played in [months],” Verhaeghe said.

“It was a lot of fun playing in this game; there was a playoff-like atmosphere out there. It was fast and intense. It’s a lot of fun playing in these games, but obviously, there are things we’ve got to clean up. We’re going to come back better and learn from it.”

However, Maurice was not upset with his team’s effort on Tuesday night.

He thinks this is a game his team can hold onto as it looks to fine-tune its game come playoff time.

“It was a perfect hockey game, and you want to win it,” Maurice said. “You get the lead like that and you want to be able to close it out, but suffering is sometimes good. It’s good for you to put that much effort in and come away with nothing.”



  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports SUN, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Last Season: Florida won 2-1
  • This Season (Series Tied 1-1) — At Florida: Islanders 4, Panthers 3 (Dec. 2); Thursday. At Islanders: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 OT (Jan 27).
  • All-time regular season series: Panthers lead 57-33-11, 8 ties
  • Next Up for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Detroit, 12:30 p.m.

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