Sam Bennett’s return to the lineup was just what the doctor ordered for the Florida Panthers in Game 2 against the Boston Bruins.
He set the tone early on with an opening goal and finished things off with a big hit to set up the insurance marker and the rest of the team followed suit.
The Panthers were able to steal home ice advantage and even the series at a game apiece with a 6-3 win because of his efforts.
With the score tied at 2 after 40 minutes, the Panthers scored four straight goals in the third to take control of the game.
Brandon Montour scored twice in the game with shots from just inside the blue line; Florida also got goals from Bennett, Eric Staal, Carter Verhaeghe and Eetu Luostarinen.
After a tight-checking first period, Bennett broke the ice by driving the net and stuffing a Matthew Tkachuk chip-in past Linus Ullmark 1:42 into the second.
Florida had multiple opportunities to extend their lead — grabbing two power play opportunities — but came out sluggish both times.
Brad Marchand made the lethargic Panthers power play pay when he picked off an Anthony Duclair turnover and beat Alex Lyon high glove-side.
Tkachuk has said multiple times that the Panthers needed to play a perfect game to beat this Bruins team — which broke NHL records for wins and points in the regular season —but they seemed to bounce back from the ones they made.
It certainly helped that Patrice Bergeron was out for a second-straight game with a lower-body injury.
Eric Staal brought Florida right back into the game with a wrist shot from the slot off a feed from Nick Cousins two minutes after Marchand’s goal.
Ryan Lomberg sent Boston to the power play with a slashing penalty away from the play less than a minute later.
And the big, bad Bruins made them pay again.
After the Panthers penalty kill kept them to the outside for the most part, Pavel Zacha fired a shot on net as the power play was expiring and Tyler Bertuzzi tipped it in with 2:59 to go in the second period.
But they regrouped big time in the third.
Montour started things off with a wrist shot from the point that beat Ullmark just 22 seconds into the third to restore Florida’s lead.
Bennett then started a rush chance for Tkachuk and Verhaeghe with a big hit just under seven minutes into the frame.
Tkachuk strung the pass to Verhaeghe and he finished it off with a wrist shot from the slot to bump the Panther lead to two.
Montour cashed in again with a slap shot with 6:30 to go to put the game out of reach for Boston.
Alex Lyon made 35 saves on 38 shots to earn his first win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The game was physical throughout although it got predictably chippy as Florida pulled away.
In the final minutes, a total of seven players — including Radko Gudas and Lomberg — were tossed from the game.
Going to be fun come Friday night in Sunrise.
GOALS OF THE GAME
- Panthers 1, Bruins 0 (1:42, 2nd): Sam Bennett picked up a Matthew Tkachuk chip-in while driving the net and stuffed it past Linus Ullmark.
- Bruins 1, Panthers 1 (12:13, 2nd, SH): Brad Marchand walked right in on goal off of an Anthony Duclair turnover and beat Alex Lyon high glove-side.
- Panthers 2, Bruins 1 (14:18, 2nd): Eric Staal fired a wrist shot from the slot past Ullmark to give restore Florida’s lead.
- Bruins 2, Panthers 2 (17:01, 2nd, PPG): Tyler Bertuzzi deflected a Pavel Zacha shot past Lyon with one second left on the man advantage.
- Panthers 3, Bruins 2 (0:22, 2nd): Brandon Montour beat Ullmark with a wrist shot from the point right off the opening face-off of the third period.
- Panthers 4, Bruins 2 (7:00, 3rd): A big Bennett hit helped Tkachuk find Verhaeghe in the slot for the goal.
- Panthers 5, Bruins 2 (12:30, 3rd): Colin White deflected a Montour slap shot past Ullmark to extend Florida’s lead.
- Panthers 6, Bruins 2 (17:35, 3rd): Eetu Luostarinen ENG
- Panthers 6, Bruins 3 (18:50, 3rd): Taylor Hall scored from the front of the net off a pass from Nick Foligno.
COLBY’S 3 STARS OF THE GAME
1. Sam Bennett, Florida
2. Brandon Montour, Florida
3. Alex Lyon, Florida
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 3 (Series tied 1-1)
- When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, TNT
- Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
- Regular Season Series (Tied 2-2): @Boston 5, Florida 3 (Oct. 17); @Florida 5, Boston 2 (Nov. 23); @Boston 7, Florida 3 (Dec. 19); @Florida 4, Boston 3 OT (Jan. 28)
- Last Season: Boston won 2-1
- All-time Regular Season Series: Boston leads 60-38-6, 6 ties
- Playoff History (Florida leads 1-0): Panthers 4-1, 1996 (first round)
- First Round Schedule — Game 1: Boston 3, Florida 1; Game 2: Florida 6, Boston 3; Game 3: at Florida, Friday, 7:30 (TNT); Game 4: at Florida, Sunday, April 23, 3:30 (TNT); Game 5: at Boston, Wednesday, April 26 (TBA); Game 6*: at Florida, Friday, April 28; Game 7*: at Boston, Sunday, April 30.