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2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Game 3: How the Florida Panthers Blitzed the Boston Bruins



Panthers bruins
The Florida Panthers watch Boston Garden ice crew remove items thrown onto the ice after a goalie interference call on Jakub Lauko during the third period in Game 3 on Friday night. The Panthers got their third power play goal of the night - from Brandon Montour - not long afterward. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON — For the second-straight game, the Florida Panthers did not give the Boston Bruins any room to breathe.

They simply smothered them.

Florida allowed just eight shots and nine scoring chances through the first two periods en route to a 6-2 win in Boston to take a 2-1 series lead.

Evan Rodrigues put the Panthers ahead with his first of two goals 8:04 into the game before their power play settled in to barrage the Bruins for four goals on six opportunities.

“We just played our game,” Rodrigues said. “We’ve done a really good job of hanging onto pucks in the offensive zone and trying to wear them down and turning it into a three-quarter ice game.

“I thought our defense played phenomenal, their gaps were incredible and when they’re asserting themselves like they are, it’s what makes us a really good team.”

Early on, they needed to get by via strong defense and heavy forechecking because nothing else was going for them.

And they got major help in both of those things with the return of Sam Bennett to the lineup.

The Panthers fell flat on their first two power plays, starting the series off 1-for-11 against a Bruins team which very much had their number during the regular season, and Jeremy Swayman continued to make big save after big save.

“Our analytics on expected goals for power play were very, very high, and it’s easy to say now, but it was just a matter of time,” coach Paul Maurice said. “If you keep doing the right things over and over, you’re going to have a good night and I think we saved some of those up.”

Boston appeared to have its first gasp of offense late in the second period but Florida’s fourth line was able to survive the barrage and Steven Lorentz drew a four-minute double-minor after a high stick from Mason Lohrei drew blood.

That’s when the dam broke.

Vladimir Tarasenko fired a wrist shot past Swayman late in the first half of the four-minute power play with traffic in front to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Carter Verhaeghe then drove the front of the net and deflected a feed from Matthew Tkachuk home a minute later to give Florida a three-goal lead heading into the second intermission.

If that was not already enough, Brandon Montour blasted a slap shot past Swayman 3:09 into the third on the power play to make it a 3-0 game following a Jakub Lauko goalie interference penalty that caused the TD Garden faithful to throw trash on the ice.

“We had really quick puck movement,” Tkachuk said of the power play. “Guys were interchangeable in spots and can play any position there. As long as we’re moving it quick and shooting when there’s somebody in front that’s when we have success.”

It was clear, the Bruins were frustrated and so were their fans.

But they showed a bit of life.

Lauko made up for his penalty less than two minutes later after beating Sergei Bobrovsky with a quick shot off of a feed from Jake DeBrusk to snap a streak of 10 consecutive Panthers goals dating back to Game 2.

DeBrusk added a goal of his own 3:30 later to draw Boston back within two.

“At the start of the third period, I thought we were off a foot,” Maurice said. “Our stick is a half foot out of the passing lanes on that power play and the pace of it and Sergei makes big saves. We needed that. That kind of got us back into the game a little bit.”

But when the Panthers needed him most, Bobrovsky stepped up.

Niko Mikkola took an interference penalty with 8:36 to go and Boston settled in for a barrage.

Bobrovsky made four key saves, including three incredible saves on high-danger chances, to help Florida survive.

And they immediately took the momentum back afterwards.

Sam Reinhart buried an empty net goal with 1:24 to go while Rodrigues added a second goal with a blast of a one-timer on the power play for good measure.

Editor: This is an updated story. The original version had Jeremy Lauzon with the high-stick on Lorentz.

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